In the previous episode, Karyna was given an ominous warning by a shadowy figure who quickly vanished. Readers voted that as she continues on, she will heed the stranger’s warning and analyze Garik carefully for signs of his deception.
Imrich steered Karyna through the crowd towards the rear of the hall. There, at the head of a rowdy table, sat a tall blonde man who could be none other than Garik the Wolf Slayer. On his back was a wolf pelt, the black fur shining like volcanic glass in the firelight. A necklace of wolf teeth and claws hung from his neck over his fine blood-red tunic and leather jerkin. But despite his clothes and ornaments, Karyna found this thin, drunken boy completely unlike the famous warrior she expected. His beard was short and scraggly, his face too thin and unhealthy looking. Chief Imrich had a thick neck and muscular arms, but this boy looked almost feminine, with small features and thin limbs. He looked as though he would not be able to slay a sick dog, let alone a giant wolf. Einar’s words echoed in her head once more: “The son of Imrich is not the slayer of Eyulf.”
“Father! Do you bring me gifts?” Garik said loudly as he spotted his father approaching. “I thought there would be more pork on this table!” Laughter from the men around him only encouraged him to continue. “And where is that fine wine from Halmo? I think we deserve to try such a treat on this great day of celebration!”
“Later my son!” Imrich said, laughing with the rest. “I bring you the greatest gift of all. A wife!”
“The greatest gift is a son, not the woman that bears him,” one of the men said loudly. Garik laughed, raising his tankard at the man before downing the strong beer.
“Very true, very true!” the chief said appreciatively. “But only if the woman has a strong bloodline. I have brought you The Blood Rose of Draget!”
All eyes fell on Karyna as the chief clapped her on the shoulder. She managed not to wince, but she felt her knees buckle under the force of the unexpected blow. Her face remained passive as she met the eyes of the Wolf Slayer, whose face broke into a very wolf-like smirk. Despite the effects of the brew on his mind, she could see the hunger and cunning in his eyes as his gaze took in her ever feature. She felt a strong desire to shudder at the uncomfortable look, but she just held his gaze and let her face remain passive and uninterested. He would not break her.
“Karyna. The infamous Bloody Rose,” Garik said, standing and staggering towards her. “She is not much to look at, is she?”
“Her rich bloodline and strength will make up for whatever flaws you find in her appearance, my son,” Imrich said dismissively. “Perhaps once Freydis fixes her up you will find her more appealing.”
“I hope so,” Garik said, standing far too close to Karyna for her comfort. She could smell the alcohol on his breath that did little to hide the stench that came from the man himself. “Even the gods are vain when it comes to wives. I will not marry a woman that is not as beautiful as she is strong.” Karyna, never one for vanity, felt like spitting in Garik’s face. She half hoped she would not pass Garik’s strict rules for beauty, but she knew Imrich would force her into marriage anyway. If not with Garik, perhaps with one of his younger, feebler sons.
“You need not worry about your vanity. I will be sure your sister turns her into the fairest lady on the island for your wedding.”
“That will be difficult with that ugly scar across her face,” one of the men behind Garik laughed through slurred speech. “You’ll need a miracle to fix her up.”
“I see your skin is as soft and smooth as a pampered infant’s,” Karyna countered evenly, unable to let the taunt go unanswered. “How old are you, twelve? Have you even seen battle before?” There was a chorus of raucous laughter at the man’s expense. His face turned dark red in embarrassment as he glared at Karyna. She was rather pleased with herself for putting him in his place, though she knew it probably would have been better to keep her mouth shut.
“She has spirit, I will give her that,” Garik said, joining in the laughter. “But do not think for a minute that I will let you talk to me like that, Bloody Rose. Oleg was soft to raise a woman as a warrior, but you will see no such weakness from me. I expect all that defiance in your eyes to be gone before our wedding. Understood?” Karyna looked up at him blankly, noting the angry fire in his own gaze. Weak as he looked, he would think nothing about flogging her if she disobeyed.
“I understand, Wolf Slayer,” she said flatly, not looking away. She would remain passive for now, but she would not let him break her like a common horse.
“Good,” he said with a satisfied smirk. “Freydis!” Instantly, his sister appeared next to him. “Take her to her quarters. There is no reason for her to stay any longer. She must be up early tomorrow to take a tour of the island.”
“As you wish,” Freydis said pleasantly, taking Karyna’s arm and steering her away. As she was led from the hall, she caught sight of her uncle and his men sitting on the floor. Imrich and Garik had such disrespect for her kin that they were forced to sit on the floor and eat scraps like dogs. Her eye met Oleg’s gaze briefly. There was only sorrow and regret in his eyes. Leaving them behind, Karyna was led out into the storm, moving ever closer to her unwanted wedding. She had but one option: flee. Having now met Imrich and his son, she knew a wedding would not deter them from attacking her kin. She had to save her own skin. As soon as Oleg left in the morning, she too would disappear. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.
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