Wrought Iron, Chapter One

Somewhere, between the unrelenting clouds that blew snow around the trees, and the horizon that rose into mountainous cascades, the moon shone through occasionally. Its gaze descended through the flakes of snow that whipped about the trees, refracting itself off of the falling powder, and kissed its glow off the incandescent surface that gradually deepened as the night wore on. Though the terrain was flat, and the trees tall, no matter of earth would protect the woodland creatures or the ground from which it harvested from the cold bite of winter. This reminder of Skimir’s journey was no less harsh than the last.

No woodland creature dare come out into this cold blight that had set itself upon the land. Even the castle village that lay up on the hills to the west, while glowing with fires, was as still as ice outside, spare the wind that would rouse whistles from cracks and corners. Through the weather, though, trudged a man who may have been discounted a fool by most. No other man would dare brave this weather; yet his leather cloak and boots, his giant sword carried on his back, and the gloves, all black, seemed to be animated by a force that held no regard for the elements that tried to punish him for coming out. He moved forward steadily, only slowed by having to pick his feet up out of the hole they had created in the snow to step forward. The snow– it seemed, was in agreeance with the wind. Each step it tried to trap this broad and tall man, and each step it groaned as he successfully wrestled his foot from its grasp.

The man, unseen beneath his cloak, came upon a timber line, clearing out enough for him to gaze castle-ward, peering briefly before adjusting the leather mask he had applied to protect his face. Even though the moon shone bright at him, the cloak of this man seemed to devour the light before it reached his face, leaving him almost unrecognizable to any other that may see him. Slowly he trudged onward towards the village, eventually making an ascent of several hundred feet up trails where the wind tried even harder to combat him. But the man held no attention to its efforts, his feet now less hindered on the mountainside where the snow simply swept away.

* * * *

“Odin should be worried for us all if you found a wife, Relman!” exclaimed the bartender, laughing alongside the others inside the small tavern. Though many of them held their tales of war, Relman was the smaller of the bunch– well liked, but seemed most unlikely to keep a girl at his side. What he missed in size and strength with his smaller stickly figure, a sharp wit was held underneath his scraggly hair.

“That may be the case Therin, but I can at least keep mine around! You have had… four? Freya’s patience be damned with you!” More raucous laughter erupted from the four that were standing around heckling each other back and forth, occasionally swigging at their ale that had been saved for the winter months. The tavern was less frequented during the winter, so the castle keepers would often wander down to it and cause each other thorned sides from laughter.

“Come now, both of you,” started Raseth. “Who needs a wife when the spoils of war are found alive and well in your camp?” A nod and a drink was started by all of them, and they slammed their mugs in unison. In almost perfect chorus, the door swung open. Though the wind brought in the cold, the tall, dark figure standing in the doorway seemed to ebb something… colder.

He stepped inside, combating the wind slightly to shut the door, the snow stuck on his back in place for a moment until his arms moved, when some dropped to the floor. He slowly walked towards the bar, setting his gloves down. He rolled back his hood, revealing a mess of dark hair, possibly brown if it weren’t so wet, tumbling to the sides of his face. A deep sigh from the man as he looked over slightly, the light still almost devoid of his face, though the only light was from the fireplace behind him.

The others studied him quietly while Therin walked over to him. “What will you be having?”

“A mead, any kind.” The man slid a coin across the table, embossed with Thor’s hammer. The bartender looked at it a moment, determining he must have come from a capital. He noticed as the hand slid across the table, several runes were marked on the back of his hand. Therin studied it only briefly before he turned to get a cup to pour into. The others looked on silently from behind their mugs, not moving eye nor ear from the man.

His right arm reached back, unhinging the sword from the strap. Encased in a leather sheath, and the grip wrapped in leather further, the sword stood almost as tall as any man, and taller than Relman. As he leaned it against the bar, it gave a gentle thud to the floor, announcing its presence by weight. The man stretched his arms out in front of him, revealing bracers with rings and a black, somewhat damp shirt.

Thom, one of the other patrons, spoke up. He was a broad-chested man, somewhat scarred from the wars prior with tribal feuds from the area. “I haven’t seen any man brave a storm like this before. How long have you been walking?”

“Three nights.”

“Three? The storm has been on us for that long. Surely you’ve rested.”

The man replied in silence, taking the mead that Therin brought over. Slowly he brought it to his lips, taking a gulp at it, letting it warm his insides, keeping his gaze forward. Another deep breath was heard. The others looked at him quietly; no visitors came during the winter months, ever. “Are you passing through, then?” Relman asked, the voice obviously less battle-hearty than the others. The visitor stopped moving for a moment before taking another swig. “I am here on business with your Lord. Is he still awake?”

The eyebrows of the others furrowed at this response. “No,” Telmar replied, the fourth patron. “He is usually in bed by now. In his age, there is not much time for him to be with the waking. If you’re wishing business with him, I can see to it that he is notified of–”

“No,” the visitor interrupted. “The business is for his ears and his ears alone.” His tone was unforgiving. This grated the others a bit, but they held themselves back while Telmar nodded. “Very well.”

“Do you keep beds?” His gaze lifted to the bartender, the light still refusing to illuminate his face.

“Aye, we do. Depending on your business, we do or don’t charge. We’ll figure it out tomorrow.” The visitor said nothing, and only slid a few more coins across the bar. He finished his drink, and picked up his sword and gloves, moving over to one of the cots in the corner. He knew they were there… why did he ask?

“What’s your name so I can inform our Lord in the morning?” asked Telmar.

The man turned his gaze towards the fireplace. The shrouded shadow could not hide his features any longer. A small beard, fierce blue eyes and a few runes highlighted the matured man’s face. “Sigi.” The name echoed in the ears of the patrons immediately. Sigi, the famed warrior, said to have fought in Jotunheim itself. The damned son of Odin. Stories and poems carried this name through history… from long ago. Ages ago. Skeptical, then stifling laughter, Telmar replied. “Okay… Sigi. I’ll notify him first thing in the morning.”

Sigi turned to his side, his back towards the patrons, and became still. The flame not able to cast light on the other side of him, the patrons went back to talking. Quietly.

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