Category: NonConsent/Reluctance Stories

The Arctic Ch. 04

by jadewinchester©

A short chapter folks, but it is what I can manage between classes, also there is no sex. But there is a new secret revealed. Stay tuned!

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Eira's hand absently stroked her hair that was now chin length and blonde from the lye soap they had used to dye it a few nights before. She felt mortified at her appearance, an Elf's hair was cherished. The last time she had it so short she was a small girl. The chestnut brown was now a bright yellow blonde and her scalp burned, some of the soap having sat too long against her skin. Astrid had promised it would grow out, her original color would eventually return. They had one last challenge before they could make it to Astrid's hidden village. But the only way to get there, without a boat, was to pass through the small town Grindill.

"I doubt they will even be looking for me," Eira muttered as they stepped onto the path, the cloak pulled up, keeping her hidden from sight as she held onto Astrid's pack.

"We were forced to take the long way because we had to stay off the direct trails, giving Olaf's men more than enough time to ride ahead and wait for us." Eira knew it was useless to argue. Astrid was cautious, but she always seemed to have a logical reason behind it that Eira could never argue with. She followed closely behind the girl as they approached the drawbridge, keeping her head down and her eyes on the back of Astrid's boots.

"State your business," a gruff voice demanded.

"Here to try and sell a few things to the vendors in the market." Astrid replied, holding up the animal skins, Thor's reins in the other. He looked them over the meager bundle and nodded, allowing them to pass. Eira could hear her heart pounding in her chest as she walked past the warrior, careful to keep her eyes down.

She had just made it a few steps past him when he called for them to stop. Eira froze as sweat gathered on her brow, had he recognized her? She had been so careful not to expose her face, even though they had went through such pains to disguise her should she need to remove her cloak.

"Is there a problem?" Astrid asked sweetly, even she had changed her appearance and put on a simple dress and apron, revealing no outward signs she was a trained warrior.

"Tell your Slave to remove her hood," he demanded. She looked to Astrid who gave her a nod and she slid the cloak down, wincing as it brushed against the burnt flesh on the back of her neck.

She studied his boots as he scrutinized her, anxiety flooding from her pores as she waited for him to complete his examination.

"What is your name, Elf?"

"R-Runa, Sir." He studied her for a few minutes longer than motioned them away with the wave of his hands. It was the only name she had been able to think of on the spot and she hoped her friend did not mind. With the cloak back in place her pulse slowed back to normal range and she quickened her steps so that she was beside Astrid. The city was small, but there was no mistaken it for a city. There were more buildings in the center of town, shops for weapons, medicine, food, and even a couple inns. Eira was nearly knocked to the ground as a group of small children rushed past her, shouting as they played keep away with some little girls toy doll. Astrid pulled on the rope that was looped securely through her collar and for a moment her vision went red before she reminded herself where she was.

If they were going to make it to Astrid's village, she needed to play her part. It was Astrid's life on the line too if they were caught.

"We do not have a lot of time," Astrid announced. Eira followed her further into town, keeping her head down, making sure to step out of the way of others. As a Slave it was her job to stay out of the way and remain quiet unless otherwise instructed. The only thing keeping pride from rearing its ugly head was the hope that she would learn more from Astrid, already she had learned to kill, clean and skin hares and then how to roast them over an open fire. She was amazed of the well of knowledge Astrid possessed for such a young girl and ashamed at the lack of her own. When she finally stopped before a table Eira stopped beside her.

"What have ya got for me girly?"

"Some pelts." The vendor was short, bald and he stroked his long oily beard as he lifted the rope and investigated the fur.

"Looks intact...and impressively clean. Did you save the feet?" Astrid tossed a small bag onto his table

"Every single foot. Do you have the item I requested?"

He glanced at the two of them, back at the fur then held up his finger and disappeared inside his tent. When he came out he had a small piece of walrus ivory.

"May I inspect it?" Astrid asked politely. The man held the tusk and she carefully pulled out the large canine, running her fingers over the long cracks as she inspected it.

"Well Arne, looks like we have a deal." She reached into a small cinched bag and pulled out a few bits of silver and placed it in the man's palm. He tested each piece then nodded and took the furs back into his tent. Astrid wrapped the tooth up and packed it into the bag before motioning her to follow. They made their way down the cobblestone street and Eira took the time to survey the city. It resembled hers in many ways, having many of the businesses located in one area, the vendors selling their goods on tables or blankets.

But there was one thing the city had that she had never noticed in hers before, in the middle of the town square they had several of her kin standing on a stage, being auctioned off to the highest bidder. Like her, they all wore similar collars, short hair, the marks of abuse clear against the otherwise unblemished skin. She felt irritation at the situation. These were her people and she was helpless to save any of them. Despair hung heavily on her heart as she looked away and trailed after Astrid.

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"Eira, we have to go!" growled Astrid as she gave Eira a small kick. Eira groaned and sat up, her eyes half closed as she struggled to wake up.

"W-w-what's happening?" she asked sleepily.

"Howls, off in the distance, we have to get going if we hope to outrun them."

"Outrun who?"

"The White Skulls; Erikke must have sent them."

"I do not know who they are."

"The White Skulls are a clan of elite hunters. Looks as though he has sent his best warriors to hunt us down and bring us back. In what condition they bring us back is usually up to Captain Ash, and he has very low standards. Make up your mind because I am leaving now." Eira stumbled from her furs and the instant cold air jolted her awake.

She tied her cloak on and began rolling the furs up and tying them onto the horse. Astrid climbed up in one smooth movement and held her hand out to Eira. Once they were both settled, Astrid leaned forward and whispered something to Thor, and he took off into the night. Eira's heart beat frantically while glacial winds whipped against their faces. Between the sounds of Thors thundering hooves and the wind snapping around them she barely heard the long distance howl of the White Skulls. Her hearing was nowhere near as strong as Astrid's, it was more of a whispering tickle.

Eira found it hard to believe that King Olaf would go through all this trouble just for her, unless he truly did believe in the magic that was her birthright. Was he afraid? Did she truly wield a power so strong? She stared at the ring around her finger, the very blood of her ancestor in form of a delicate gem. Was it the reason her father had kept her so naive? Afraid of what she might do if she knew how to control the power of the sun? What good did being the descendant of Sol do if she couldn't protect her people? They wanted her to fix the barrier, how was she supposed to manage that if she was cut off from her magic? The collar felt cold against her flesh, the metal chilled in the frosty air. It took her a moment before she realized that Astrid was yelling at her, her words stolen by the wind.

Astrid tensed as she tugged the reins and Thor stopped.

"What's wrong? Why did you stop?" She tilted her head back and inhaled deeply, a scent brought to her by the breeze.

"They are circling us. I have underestimated their stamina. While we wasted precious hours napping they were closing in!"

"What?! You cannot honestly expect me to fight anyone, I do not know how." Astrid slid down from Thor's back and Eira followed. Astrid pulled one of her daggers free from her belt and shoved the hilt into Eira's hands.

"Will you stop your whining and DO something about your life? How can you expect an entire Kingdom to fight for you if you cannot even fight for yourself?" Astrid spat, pulling out her other dagger and a sword from the saddle. She lifted her nose to the air again and turned sharply to her right just as a white wolf appeared.

"Any closer and you will taste the end of my blade," Astrid warned as the animal kept its distance, eyes glowing in the pale moonlight.

Eira felt frozen and terrified, she had already taken the life of another. The fact that it was self defense did nothing to ease her guilt. The wolf threw its head back and let out a piercing howl, calling out to its kin. It began to shake its body violently and Eira watched as the wolf morphed into a man, it all happened so fast if she had blinked she would have missed it. Whatever magic their people possessed, it had absorbed everything when he shifted and replaced it when he shifted back, all the way down to his leather armor and weapons. He was missing several teeth and the few that remained were sharpened giving him a more rabid look when he smiled.

"King Olaf has ordered your immediate return."

"I do not answer to your King." Eira replied calmly, trying to keep her hands from trembling as she gripped the sharp blade.

The man's eyes flickered with disdain.

"A disrespectful little Troll that doesn't know her place; perhaps I shall teach it to you on the way home." Astrid swung her sword, narrowly missing the man as he dodged to the side, catching her second strike with a sword of his own. Eira watched helplessly as the young girl began battling the rabid looking man, moving gracefully, almost as though she were a dancer.

This is all my fault, she thought sullenly. They were tracking her down and it was because of her they had to stop and get rest because she kept falling asleep on the horse. What Astrid lacked in strength she made up for in agility and speed. She dodged his swings, slowly wearing him down. A small growl to her left caught Eira's attention and she found herself facing off another wolf. This one black with streaks of white along its chest and grey along its whiskers, it lowered its eyes as he watched the action between Astrid and what could only be his fellow White Skull.

"For Odin's sake, DO something Eira," Astrid shouted, grunting as the man brought down a hefty swing, driving her to her knees. Eira gazed into the golden brown eyes of the black wolf and watched as more wolves appeared beside him. Suddenly he transformed into a man and there was no mistaking who it was. Captain Ash stood before her, his hands remained empty but she saw that there were quite a few weapons strapped to his body.

"You lied to me Princess...you gave me the impression you weren't going to cause any trouble and yet here we are." He lifted his hands and gestured to the forest surrounding them. The trees swayed beneath the pressure of the wind, branches groaning and creaking with the force.

"I am not going back," she warned, holding the dagger up between them. He glanced at the small knife and chuckled.

"I wasn't giving you an option," he replied as he moved closer. Eira began backing up, the sound of Astrid and the rabid man battling being the only noise in the silent woods besides the sound of the trees dancing to the wind.

"Stay back, I'm warning you! I have already killed one man for touching me," she threatened. But despite how strong she wanted to sound she was shaking in fear. The rabid man cried out and she turned to see Astrid's sword sticking out of the man's middle. He opened his mouth but instead of words only blood came rushing out. He looked at Astrid, then down at her blade in disbelief. He was wondering what they were all wondering. How did such a small girl possess such skill? She pulled the sword out with a squelching sound and he fell to the ground, white snow already turning red with his blood. While her attention was diverted, someone snuck up behind Eira, using her own sharp blade against her and pressed it securely to her throat.

"You need her alive," Astrid argued, as she eyed her odds against the increasing number of wolves. There were now 3 of them, not including the man whose life was currently spilled across the freezing cold ground. Eira had never seen anything like it, much less from a girl.

"True, but we both know that i do not have to kill her to make her suffer." The blade pressed a little harder and Eira felt a small trickle make its way to her collarbone and she managed to hold back a sob.

"Surrender now and we will take you both back to face the King." Astrid glanced around as three more wolves appeared, her odds were dwindling by the minute. When Astrid hesitated Ash spoke again.

"We only had instructions to bring back the Elf, what we do with you was left up to me." Astrid paled, but maintained her stance.

"Please, let the girl go." Eira pleaded. It was her fault that Astrid was even in this mess to begin with. She had simply been following orders no doubt given to her by her father. Who was only helping Nicholas, and she had enough blood on her hands. Ash turned to Eira, a sadistic twinkle in his eyes. A man jumped down on Astrid from behind, wrapping his arms around her chest, pinning her arms to her side, leaving her weapons trapped as she thrashed and kicked her legs wildly.

"Should have surrendered when you had the chance youngling." Astrid threw her head back, a cracking sound echoed as her skull connected with his. Blood ran down his face, but his grip never loosened; instead he squeezed tighter, and she gasped for breath, face beginning to turn red.

"Leave her alone!" Eira shouted, the blade sinking in a little further. Ash turned to her, a fiendish smile on his face.

"Disarm the girl," he instructed. The man held Astrid tighter still as another wolf shifted and pulled the weapons from her already weakening grip. The man holding her grabbed one wrist, pulling it behind her body and twisting it until she screamed, collapsing in the snow. He used his foot to press her face against the bitter cold, mere inches from the expiring body beside them. The man who had removed her weapons began patting her down, searching for any additional items that could be used as weapons. She whimpered as his filthy hands roamed her body and Eira felt tears slid down her chilled cheeks. She felt feeble and loathed herself for it. Her hesitation had led to this situation.

Astrid squeezed her eyes shut as she waited until the man finished.

"That's enough, secure them both, we camp tonight and head back at first light." All the wolves morphed back into men and began gathering nearby branches while a few others cleared space. The man holding Eira removed the knife and she fell to her knees in relief, hands moving to the small gash in her neck.

She would have healed it had she not been cut off from her magic, she glanced over at Astrid. The girl glowered as they tied her wrists and ankles together, her eyes red with unshed tears. Ash approached Eira and crouched down low enough so that he could fasten her with rope as well.

"I have to confess, I am impressed with you ladies. It was quite an orchestrated escape, so many wolves willing to lay down their lives for a simple Elf."

"She is the only one capable of strengthening the barrier," Astrid replied as she stared at the flames of the newly built fire.

"There is nothing wrong with the barrier," Ash announced.

"Is that what your KING told you? He is too pigheaded to listen to reason. The barriers are weakening and if Eira does not reinforce them, you will have more problems on your hand than just Elves." Ogres and Giants had been among the first beings of creation, they were as strong as they were old with only Ragnorok in mind. Death and destruction is what they craved and the only thing standing in their way was the barrier. The man sitting beside Astrid slapped her upside her head.

"Do not disrespect the King or I shall cut out your tongue," he warned. Captain Ash cleared himself a seat on a nearby tree log, pulling Eira to sit on the ground beside him, the snow soaking her clothes and making her shiver, the fire provided little heat, but with the gust of wind so strong it was hard to keep the flame burning.

A few men returned from the woods with a couple hares and Eira watched as they skinned and roasted them over the small fire. Her stomach clenched at the smell of food but she ignored the pangs of hunger and kept an eye on Astrid. Her face was set in a

scowl but Eira could see the wheels turning, she was planning something, Eira could only hope it wasn't going to get her killed. She would never be able to live with herself if Astrid was killed, she had enough souls on her conscious. Ash offered a drink from the skin pouch that had been tied to his belt and Eira nearly choked on the ale. A few of the men laughed at her inability to hold her ale as he passed the pouch around. When Astrid declined a drink the man beside her ended up shoving her onto her back and pouring some down her throat.

She coughed and sputtered as she was forced to drink the ale. He sat her back up and she snapped her teeth at his passing hand, earning her a backhand to the face.

"Don't you touch her!" Eira warned. The man looked amused as he met her gaze.

"I do not take orders from the likes of you. I can and will do whatever I please to her and there is not a single thing you can do to stop it." To emphasize his point he grabbed a handful of Astrid's hair and pulled her head back.

"Well look at what we got here. No wonder you're a rebel sympathizer, you're one of them," he spat, tone filled disgust. All attention turned to Astrid whose ears were now revealed, raised thick scars covered where the tips of her ears used to be. Even when she had her hair pulled back in braids, there was always enough hair hanging loose that Eira had never seen the tips of her ears. The tears Astrid had been holding back suddenly burst free and she looked away shamefully. For being part of a clan that she claimed was accepting of Elves, it felt like betrayal.

"Why don't you use your magic on us, little Elfling?" he taunted.

"Because her Runes are branded. Its an old tradition, but still effective," Ash stated, his eyes filled with delight at the look of horror upon Eira's face.

"You lied to me," she announced.

"I did not lie. The subject just never came up," Astrid excused lamely.

"You laughed at the idea of me, an Elf, wielding knives. And you have been one this whole time?!"

"I am a WOLF, I was raised as a wolf and I will die as a wolf." Eira shook her head in disbelief, how could she have trusted her? She claimed to be accepting, claimed to want to help, but she couldn't even seem to accept herself. It was barbaric to imagine what it must have been like for her to be branded and mutilated as a child. It saddened her to hear the self hate behind her words, if had she been raised as an Elf she would have learned what a gift it was to be able to possess such power.

"It doesn't matter how much you look like one of us, it's what's in your blood elfling. And yours reeks of Troll." Astrid snarled, and her eyes glowed brightly as she bared her teeth.

"That is enough, Arvid, let it go." The man grumbled under his breath but he listened and turned his attention to the last hare roasting over the fire. Eira fumed in silence, her hands shook with the violent intentions that flowed through her. While they ate the rest of the hare one of the wolves had set Astrid's small tent back up along with several of their own. Ash cut free the ropes that bound her ankles and lifted Eira to her feet, then nodded at the largest tent.

Category: NonConsent/Reluctance Stories