In the previous episode, Karyna was told the truth of the Wolf Slayer by the Valkyrie Hildr who also warned her to be armed with a sword on her wedding day. She then needed to decide the best way to tell the people of Birkholm that they have been deceived and readers voted that while imprisoned, a servant shall bring her food and it is to her that Karyna should tell the story.
“I swear to you, Chief Imrich, I was not running away.”
“And yet, I do not believe you, Karyna Blood Rose. Your sudden disappearance the day before your union to Garik suggests otherwise.”
“If I wished to run, I would have stolen a ship and sailed away. Escape is not easy from a mountaintop.”
“Are you mocking me?” Imrich snarled fiercely, eyes narrowed as he threateningly towered over Karyna.
“No, sir. I just wish to explain myself before judgment is passed.” Imrich hesitated for a moment, the half-dozen men at his back watching in interest. Would their chief listen to the defiant woman, or would he simply punish her for her cheek?
“I did not intend to slight you, I just wished for some solitude to think. I have been given a great honor, being chosen as the Wolf Slayer’s wife, and it is a burden I hope I am capable of bearing. Much has been happening this last week and I required time to process the new life I will have as part of your family. Upon the mountaintop, I found the solace I needed. I am ready now to return to the village.”
“Why did you not tell someone of this plan? I would have given you a guide.” Karyna could tell Imrich was still suspicious, so she quickly racked her brain for a suitable answer.
“I did not wish to appear weak. Fear and doubt are weaknesses I refuse to accept in myself. It is intolerable for others to see them in me.”
Imrich stared at her for some time, apparently wrestling with himself as to what to do with her. Karyna remained silent, wondering if perhaps it would have been better to tell him the truth. But as she stood at the foot of the mountain, riders forming a half-circle in front of her, she knew it would be unwise to tell the chief what she knew. Imrich was stubborn and arrogant. He would be offended at any questioning of his leadership, and she would certainly be physically punished for suggesting he was being controlled by his daughter in front of his men.
“Tie her up, Agnar,” Imrich said finally, turning to mount his gray stallion. “Her punishment will be decided later. After she has wed Garik, he shall decide her fate.”
With mixed feelings about whether this verdict was good or bad for her, Karyna mounted Stig, waiting patiently and silently as Agnar tied her hands behind her back, stringing a line between his mount and hers before starting off back towards the village.
The long ride back was silent, as was the ride through the village to the stables. Karyna sat upright proudly, maintaining what dignity she could, being bound and paraded through the village, people staring at her and whispering to each other as the group passed. She allowed herself to be shepherded into the stables, unbound, and then led back to her prison room. Either Imrich was afraid she really would run, or Freydis had convinced her father that it was a prudent idea. Karyna was left alone after that, though the sounds of people running around outside could be heard clearly, the village busily preparing for the celebration the following day.
When the door finally opened again just before nightfall, it was not Freydis, Garik, or even Imrich. A young girl, probably about twelve or thirteen, slowly entered her room carrying a bowl of stew and looking frightened.
“P-Pardon me,” she squeaked, wide eyes staring up at Karyna in both awe and fear. “I brought you some dinner.”
“Thank you,” Karyna said, reaching towards the girl to take the bowl. The sudden movement startled the girl so much that she let out a short screech, shrinking away so fast that she spilled half the stew on her arms. Closing the distance between them, Karyna quickly took the bowl away and put it on the floor, grabbing the girl deftly by the arm. The girl seemed beyond sounds now, looking up at Karyna as if she was about to rip the thin girl’s arm clean off.
“I will not hurt you, child,” Karyna said, her face softening as she looked at the girl’s petrified face. “Here, let me help.” Using her own sleeve, Karyna wiped the hot stew off the girl’s hands. “There, that is better, isn’t it? What is your name?”
“Eira,” she managed to squeak. Karyna loosened her grip on the girl’s arm, but held her firmly to keep her from fleeing.
“I am sorry I startled you, Eira. Thank you for bringing me dinner. There is no need to fear, I know I look frightening, but you have no reason to be afraid.”
“I have heard the stories, my lady,” Eira said in her quiet, high-pitched voice. “You are a great warrior. You even managed to steal Eyulf’s teeth from the Wolf Slayer.” Karyna had quite forgotten about the teeth, having been too preoccupied with Hildr’s tale. But now she wondered why Imrich had not said anything about them. If Eira knew she had taken them, Imrich most certainly would.
“What are they saying about the teeth?” she asked curiously, trying not to let her emotions take control and frighten the girl again.
“They say you moved through the hall like a wraith. When the teeth were found missing, Sveinn told everyone that you were in Garik’s room last night and you must have stolen the teeth. Why did you steal them?”
Hildr’s plea echoed in her head. She had to get Freydis on edge. She had to spread the truth to counter her lies. And the opportunity was staring her in the face.
“I stole them because Garik did not slay the great wolf,” Karyna said bluntly. “The Valkyrie Hildr slew the beast.”
“How do you know?” Eira asked in awe. Smiling, Karyna told the girl all she knew. The loose lips of a child could do more damage than she alone ever could. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.