In the previous episode, Karyna decided to try and escape when she was approached by an elf who told her she would find truth at the top of the peak nearby. Unfortunately, she does not make it to the peak. Readers voted that her pursuers are closer than she anticipated and intercept her before she gets there.
Karyna’s eye was on the hidden peak. Anticipation was bubbling inside her, the promise of the truth urging her forward. Distracted, she did not see the hooded figure until Stig started in surprise, snorting nervously, coming to an abrupt halt.
“I am sorry, friend,” Karyna said, making to go around the figure. “I did not see you.”
“That is obvious,” the figure said, looking up from under the hood. Karyna looked down in confusion.
“Freydis? How did you find me?”
“The question is why did you leave?” Freydis replied. Karyna’s eyebrow rose, noting the tone in the woman’s voice. It was somewhere between polite interest and anxious curiosity, but there was an underlying quality that was seemed more like intimidation. The hairs on the back of Karyna’s neck stood up, warning her that danger was near. Those instincts had served her well as a warrior, and now they were telling her that something was amiss.
“I wanted to see the entire island,” Karyna lied. “And I am not much for company. I preferred to do it on my own.”
“Really?” Freydis said, clearly not believing her. “I am glad to hear it. I thought you were trying to run away.”
It was at this point that Karyna noticed that there was no horse nearby, nor was anyone else anywhere within view. Frowning, she asked Freydis once more how she had found her.
“That is not your concern,” Freydis said, her voice no longer hiding the dangerous edge. “Tell me the truth, Bloody Rose. What are you doing here? What brought you here?”
“I thought I could get a view of the island from the peak,” Karyna said quickly, knowing what a lousy lie this was, as the peak was still hidden by fog. “If I may, I would like to climb it, just to see. I will be right back down, and then we can return to your village.”
“You are not going near that mountain,” Freydis hissed, her eyes darkening. “You are coming with me now.” As Karyna made to lead Stig around her, tired of arguing, Freydis reached out, her fingers grabbing onto Stig’s bridle. Before Karyna could open her mouth to protest, there was a flash of white light, and the next thing she saw were the wooden frames of houses peaking over the hills. She was back at the village.
“You will not speak about any of this to anyone,” Freydis hissed again, grabbing Karyna’s forearm. “You will only say that I took you out riding early this morning to show you around the hills. And you will not try to run again, or you will be confined to your room until the wedding. Understand?” Her fingernails dug into the soft flesh of Karyna’s arm, through the rough cloth. Still in the saddle, Karyna winced, looking down warily at the witch holding her tightly. For there was no doubt Freydis was a witch. And she had no qualms about using her magic to control Karyna if necessary.
“Do you understand me?”
“Yes,” Karyna grunted, pulling her arm free. There was a small red stain growing on the sleeve where one of Freydis’ fingernails pierced her skin. Staring at the spot, Karyna continued. “I understand.”
“Good. And if you say anything about my powers, then I shall ensure you never speak again. Is that clear?”
“Yes,” Karyna repeated, watching as Freydis strode towards the village. Karyna followed, grudgingly. Glancing south, she imagined she could see the peak somewhere in the distance, hidden by the dark clouds still heavy in the air. Whatever was hidden at that mountain, Freydis did not want her knowing about it.
Karyna rode into the village, watching Freydis interact with those around her as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Curious glances were occasionally cast her way, but otherwise she was ignored. Karyna found this odd. The people of Birkholm had a surprising lack of curiosity about their future leader’s bride. But then she remembered the attitude of Garik’s friends the night before. She was only an object to them. Another gift of tribute to the powerful Viking leader and his clan.
Stig was put away quickly, Freydis hovering nearby, her hawk eyes watching everything Karyna did. The latter was led back to her attic room where she was to sleep until the wedding. As she stepped inside, her face returned to the emotionless mask she had learned to wear so well. She heard the bolt snap behind her and was thrown onto the ground by a blow across her back. Instinctively rolling over, she could do little more than gasp as Freydis gripped her throat, cutting off her air.
“You should be grateful,” Freydis whispered menacingly, a mere inch away from her face. “You have the chance to marry far above your own pathetic station, and to bear strong children. How dare you insult my family like this.” There was madness in her eyes that brought a wave of fear upon Karyna that she had not felt in years. Garik disgusted her and Imrich angered her, but neither of them scared her the way this witch did. Karyna could fight flesh and bone, but she had no defense against magic. Nonetheless, as Freydis let her go, she sat up coughing and argued back.
“Grateful? Grateful to be ripped from my home and sold into a marriage to a liar? I know your brother did not kill Eyulf. Who really killed the great wolf? You?”
“So, that is why you were at the mountain,” Freydis said in a low voice. “I was wondering how much you knew. But it matters not. No, I did not kill Eyulf. Nor will I tell you the truth. My brother is a cunning warrior and even if his blade did not pierce the beast’s heart, he is responsible for its death. So yes, be grateful, or I will kill you. After you give my brother a son.”
Freydis exited the room and slammed the door behind her. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.
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