March 06, 2019

Fylkir had followed the Larnham rogues into their supposed lair. They hadn’t been difficult to spot. This city was run by criminals, and there was no order.

He’d been in Larnham for less than a day, but already seen them gather in an abandoned-looking building at the outskirts of the city. And while the outside of the low-roofed house seemed quiet and devoid of life, the inside was crowded by bearded men and bellowed with howling laughter.

Most houses were built with only one floor in Larnham, because of the rough winds and lack of strong enough building materials. The majority of Noriannd’s metals and bricks were used for the construction of watch towers and military constructions.

Mismatched chairs, benches and tables scattered the main room, where wooden mugs with mead were passed around as more men gathered inside the building. There were two rooms and one door that stayed open and lead down to a basement of sorts.

Fylkir stuck near to the exit for a while, then began slowly making his way to an empty table.

He looked around the room warily, hiding his anxiously fiddling hands inside his pockets. The coat General Haften had given him was made of sheep and fox furs, and lined with wool on the inside. The building was in no way warmed, but the coat still made him sweat. The hole in the ceiling that was meant to let the smoke out was boarded shut, and he fire pit beneath it was covered in spit and Fylkir didn’t want to know what else.

As soon as he got the girl, and put an end to these rogues, he would be free.

He’d never return to Hordrigg again, and he’d never have to deal with the General again.

Fylkir sat down on a bench, feeling the sweat under his collar. The bench creaked under his weight, and he leaned his crossed elbows on the table.

His feet were grateful for the rest, as the journey to Larnham had been tiring. He’d traveled half of it in a merchant’s wagon, but as the flat fields of lower Noriannd were replaced by rocky terrain, deep forest and jagged mountain slopes, he continued by foot.

Fylkir rolled his neck and wished he could rest his eyes for a moment, but a man placed a rugged, wooden mug in front of him. Fylkir looked up.

“Good, Kaumian mead,” the man said, a proud grin on his round face.

Fylkir glanced inside the mug. “From Kamwech?” he asked.

“All the way from over the mountains and those Aruel-infested forests and grazing lands.” He laughed.

“Thanks,” Fylkir raised the mug and smiled to the man, hoping he would leave.

The man walked around the table, and thinking he’d leave, Fylkir sniffed the mug. But the rogue pulled a chair from underneath the table and sat down in front of him.

Fylkir laid the mug down on the table and crossed his arms on the table again, looking sideways at new men arriving into the room. They stomped snow off their boots and silently poured  mead into their own metal jugs. It spilled over the brim and dripped to the floor.

The stench of alcohol would linger on Fylkir’s clothes for days. It’s stuck to that place’s walls, floors, and probably even the ceiling.

“You need it for energy,” the man sitting in front of him prompted.

Fylkir pushed the mug further from himself and leaned back. “Eh, I wouldn’t want to be drunk.”

The man let out a deep bark of laughter. Heads turned in their direction.

The leaned back posture didn’t last long. Fylkir hunched down again, fiddling with the tunic laces and buttons of his warm coat. The buttons were made of bone and his nail scraped against the carved holes while he tried to ignore the uncomfortably friendly man.

“New to the Blade Boys?”

Fylkir furrowed his brow. That’s what they called themselves?

The man laughed again and even Fylkir’s lip twitched upwards.

“I’m Orr, I haven’t seen you before so I thought you were new.”

“Oh, I’m new,” Fylkir said. “Fylkir.”

Orr took a deep sip from his mug. Fylkir rubbed his sweaty neck.

A tall man, although not as tall as Fylkir, walked to stand at the opposite end of the room and clanked two large metal spoons together.

“Silence, the woman is in the room!” somebody yelled over the clamor.

Orr lowered his mug and gestured behind Fylkir.

Fylkir turned his head to see a buff, bearded man walking from the door to the group’s supposed leader, the tall man now throwing the spoons onto a table. They bounced and made even more noise, turning the last heads to his direction.

“Yssir, the leader,” Orr said, pointing discreetly toward the taller, dark blond man whose everybody’s heads were turned towards.

Orr pointed to the barrel-chested, hairy man. “Hruod.”

A woman followed the bearded man, but instead of sitting down, like him, she stood beside the leader, Yssir.

Her hair was black, braided behind her ears, and eyes painted with coal. Her face was straight, emotionless.

“And that,” Orr said, looking at her, “is queen of the liars, killer of kings, child of Ryiah Adron-”

Fylkir’s eyes narrowed. What? He stared beneath lowered brows, mouth starting to gape. Her eyes met his for a second like spears of ice boring through his skull. She looked away, a slight smile rising to her dark lips.

Or was it only his imagination?

Orr was grinning slyly when Fylkir returned his gaze forward.

“Yes, the rightful queen of Noriannd.”

“But…” Fylkir stalled. “Aren’t you all humans? And all Adrons were killed twenty years ago.”

Fylkir hadn’t felt an Aruel presence in the room. It couldn’t be true. He glanced at Mionaith. Not even she was an Aruel. The room was full of humans. Only humans.

“That’s a lie! King Corran is a fraud! A new age is coming.” said Orr. “Of no Aruels or Norians. No gods to rule over us. Just think! Free will, at last!”

Fylkir leaned forward. “What?”

“She’s going to rule all of the North realms, bring war upon the other kingdoms and bring our souls free with the fire of Ryiah the Inearther.”

“The Aruel Queen is dead.”

Orr leaned back, brows low and his mouth a straight line, he was about to open his mouth again, when Yssir yelled.

“Silence!” Yssir was beating the spoons against each other again.

“What are you doing here, then, if not for the rebellion?”

Was all this about a rebellion? General Haften hadn’t said anything about a rebellion. He’d sent Fylkir out alone, to stop a rebellion and catch… Fylkir blinked, lips parted in half a curse. He breathed out quickly.


Find me the girl with fire in her veins. General Haften wasn’t going to sacrifice her. He’d seen the disappointment in his eyes hundreds of times when Fylkir failed to find her among the red-headed girls he brought to the castle.

Red-headed, like Ryiah the Inearther of Darkness, the legendary Aruel Queen from his childhood bedtime stories. He’d been an idiot for not figuring it out earlier.

Mionaith wasn’t the only Adron left in Noriannd. If Fylkir didn’t catch that girl, she’d be turned into a weapon for the Norians to fight the rest of the world, or for these rebels to do the same.

Fylkir’s raging storms for thoughts had drowned out every single word Yssir had been speaking. But he’d given them orders, and men were already leaving the room or securing hidden blades on every limb.

Slowly, Fylkir stood up after Orr. The man covered his head with his hood, and Fylkir did the same with his neck scarf because he had no hood.

“You’re one of us, then?” Orr asked. “Despite your doubts?”

Fylkir stopped gnawing on the inside of his cheek. He nodded, then raised his chin slightly. “I have no doubts.”

Orr gave him a pat on the shoulder. They started out of the room. From the corner of his eye, just before taking the last step out the door and into the cold, Fylkir saw a flash of blue uniforms. He turned his head straight ahead. “I’ll follow you, I guess,” he said to Orr.

Orr smiled widely, his yellow teeth even more yellow against the contrast of pure white snow.

Fylkir’s knees ached and he pushed his hands into his pockets, trotting on.

“We’re going to rob the butcher first.”

Fylkir gave him a confused frown, anxiety bubbling up inside him.

Orr increased his pace. “This will be a blast.” He laughed, and Fylkir forced a laugh too, regretting that he ever trusted the General.

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