Waves of Ice

Waves of Ice

Chapter I - Idun


The longship Mist Dancer cut through the black water. The gray and white striped sail hid in the early morning fog and made the snarling wooden dragon at the helm seem like it swam alone in the lake. Its fierce eyes scanned the frozen shore it faced. Behind it, turned towards the crew who sat under heavy capes of wool and fur, stood a woman in her twenties with leather armor over a red wool tunic. Idun's blond hair was braided back with a big braid over the top and two smaller ones from each temple. The hair flew free from the back of her head, some locks threaded with beads. She placed her hands on her hips next to a sword and a dagger.

"Those who have visited Garda will take the lead to the longhouse where Torbjörn is likely kept. If he isn't there, we will go door to door until we find him. Spread out and stay focused. We will meet resistance, but remember, we are only here for Torbjörn. Not to fight and especially not to plunder. " Idun fixed her gaze on Elna, a sturdy woman with a round face and light brown, curly hair until she looked away.

"Harald and Sven, guard Mist Dancer until we come back. Make sure we can leave the beach as soon as you see us."

The men nodded.

The shoreline was now close enough to show the cones on the snow-covered branches of the alders. When the hull scraped the bottom of the lake and broke the ice by the shore, the warriors sprung to life. Reluctantly, they replaced their warm coats with cold helmets and shields from the gunwale.

Idun was the first to land in the knee-high water by the ship. She clenched her jaw to catch her breath and waded through crushed ice and slush. Her toes were numb by the time she reached the shore. Stomping in the snow to dry her feet, she waited for the rest to come ashore.

Ask, dressed in black and without a shield, waited until everyone had left Mist Dancer before they took off, running on the gunwale. From the side of the wooden dragon they leaped and landed on the trampled shoreline.

Ask grinned and tied their black hair into a knot by the neck. "Ready?"

Idun rolled her eyes with a smile, lifted the round, white shield, and followed them.

The crew spread out and sneaked forward, only the soft snow under their feet gave any hint of their existence in the dark. The forest's breaths were drawn out to the point that they never seemed to begin nor end. Idun had to remind herself to breathe.

She stretched her inner sense of smell out in the dark. The slightest scent or thought and she would know if anyone was on lookout, but unfortunately, it spread around her in all directions.

Blood.

Idun glanced back. Elna thinking of a battle didn't bode well.

The trees thinned and Idun glimpsed a trail of smoke against the slowly brightening sky.

Chapter 2 - Viveka


Four paws bore into Viveka's stomach, waking her in time for Taily to lie on her face. She lifted the cat to her chest and scratched her under the chin.

"Fucking cat," Viveka picked out brown fur from her mouth. She gave Taily one last pat down to the stump of her tail before crawling out of bed to wake the embers in the hearth. Despite the long-sleeved, green dress that reached her calves, and the thick, pale yellow socks, she had goosebumps from toes to fingertips. She combed out her red curls with her hands and made a sloppy braid with a yellow ribbon hanging over the loom. She turned to reach for firewood and stubbed her toe on an unwashed pot.

"Piss sprites!" she hissed through clenched teeth.

The clang bounced between the walls where an ax, a worn shield, and a bow with a holster, hung. Taily's stump twitched and she gave Viveka an annoyed glare. In the silence that followed, as she waited for the pain in her toe to subside, she heard footsteps in the snow outside. She let her inner hearing search outside the walls of the house.

Metal against metal. Screams.

A numbing cold spread inside. Viveka put on a pair of high leather boots and took the shield and the axe. She glanced at the coffin with the leather armor from her father and swore. It would take too long to put on.

"Stay here," she whispered to Taily before opening the door just enough to slip out.

A thin layer of snow covered the trampled paths between the houses. Fresh footprints lead from the forest into Garda. Viveka swallowed a lump that grew in her throat. Shoes creaked in the snow from all directions.

Few of the villagers had inner senses strong enough to discover the strangers. They would be killed before the sun rose.

She dived back into the house and dragged the large pot out from the hearth. The axe and shield already at hand made it difficult to get a proper grip and she slammed her elbow in the doorframe on the way out and swallowed a curse.

A shadow materialized from the night and ran towards her with a sword shining in the dim morning light. Viveka slammed the neck of the axe on the pot rapidly to warn the others. When the warrior was close enough to swing the sword, she threw herself around the corner of the house and met another shadow. With the shield in front of her like a plow, she leaped and crashed into it, sending them both down in the snow.

While the person under the shield gasped for air, Viveka got to her feet and threw open the nearest door.

"We are under attack!"

The adults in the house were already reaching for weapons, shields, and other sharp or hard objects that could be used to defend or hurt. Old Saga held a massive kitchen knife so tightly that her wrinkled knuckles were white as bone. Behind her skirts hid her five grandchildren.

Viveka ran on. Between deafening heartbeats, she heard the faint scratching of a door being barricaded. Good.

People left their houses and filled the roads with torches and shadows. Two foreign warriors dashed around the corner and Viveka followed. They were on their way to the longhouse. Of course. Viveka struggled with the frustration that welled up against her father. How senseless could you be?

The foreign warriors noticed Viveka trailing them. The long one with pearls in her hair raised a white shield to give the heavy woman free sprint towards the house where Torbjörn was. But there was also her father, and they would not get to hurt him, no matter how stupid he might be.

Viveka picked up speed and ran towards the blonde warrior who drilled her heels into the packed snow. Their shields collided with a thunderous boom. The warrior pushed away Viveka with the shield and scanned her with a glance. By all accounts, Viveka would be an easy match even though they were the same age. She was shorter and less prepared. Behind the shield, the warrior wore leather armor and held a sword at the ready.

It would go as the Gods wished. Viveka attacked. Her axe scraped against the woman's shield, and a moment later, a sword hurled towards her shoulder. She blocked and cut the woman's sword arm. Two foreign warriors ran forward. Before Viveka could land a blow that would cause serious injury, there were three against one. She was surrounded. To escape, she tackled the smallest of them, a warrior with black hair and two axes. With Viveka on, they grabbed the shield and rolled so that Viveka lay on one of their axes. Or was it her own? Her hands were apparently both gripping the shield. The woman with beads in her hair bent down and pried it from her, leaving her defenseless. Viveka met her gaze and saw a glimmer of recognition.

Flutes.

Driven by frustration rather than reason, Viveka swung a fist to the woman's nose. A heartbeat later, her hands were pinned in the snow as if by a bear. Viveka's braid had gone up, leaving her hair flowing like blood around her head.

The woman clenched her jaw and desperately tried to blink away the tears that welled up in her blue eyes. Despite that, her voice was melodic. "If you give us Torbjörn, no one will be hurt."

Viveka's mental wall of anger cracked at the edge. Was a man with improbable stories worth this?

The woman took a deep breath and a spark of anger ignited in her eyes. Whatever part of Viveka's thoughts had trickled out, had washed away her calm. "Oh, really, you've met him. Where is he?"

Viveka's heart raced, restoring her mental wall. Definitely not worth it. "In the longhouse on the side of the hill. My father is there. He's an idiot, but please don't hurt him. "

The woman nodded and looked at the hill. The heavy woman was already walking away from it. Alone.

"He's not there. Just lots of sheep and an old man without anything to say. "

The cold passed through Viveka as if she were a block of ice, carved like a horrible joke to resemble a human. She stretched her inner hearing towards the heavy woman.

Sheep. Swearing. Father's scream.

"Let me go!" Viveka shouted.

The woman locked her ice-blue gaze on Viveka. "Where is he?"

Viveka shook her head with chattering teeth. "I'm not saying shit until you let me go!"

The blonde woman turned to the warrior Viveka tackled and said frustrated, "Ask, what do we do? This is miles from the plan!"

"Take her to the ship? We can't stay here much longer." They looked at the villagers who fought against the warriors. The strangers were at a disadvantage now that they had lost the moment of surprise. "At the very least we can swap her for Torbjörn later."

The blonde woman nodded.

Ash gave an order and a man as big as a moose threw Viveka over his shoulder. With one hand he locked her wrists on her back and with the other, her legs.

Although she screamed and tried to kick until her lungs and muscles ached, she was carried through Garda and the alders, to a ship that was ready to disappear into the fog.