The shield maiden walked for much of the day through the Northern forests before she came upon a road that traveled towards the rising sun and cut through the forest like a blade. Placing her feet upon it, she hitched her shield upon her shoulder and with purpose continued her journey upon it, for a road have to lead somewhere, and she needed shelter. It was some time before she came to a signpost, but looking up at the chicken scratches that was carved into it, she was none the wiser at where it would lead. But a signpost meant a town, and so with the sun setting behind her and night drawing in- she would follow it, feeling lighter and hopeful that she would soon find shelter.
Mani was rising and casting its silvered light upon the road and she continued. The night was filled with the sounds of those nocturnal beasts that claimed it as home. The hoot of owls, small creatures rustling in the undergrowth beneath those towering giants and in the distance, the plaintive howl of a single wolf soon became a chorus. Upon hearing this, the Nord warrior retrieves the axe that hangs at her side and grips it tightly within her right hand.
The sounds of nature were familiar to her, and provided some comfort but still, hunger was hunger, and a pack was still something to be wary of. She had eaten nothing but a few hazelnuts, scavenged from a squirrels hoard and drank nothing but a few mouthfuls of water from a stream that, it transpired, had a nix swimming in it. Respectfully, she had withdrawn, for fear of offending that creature, but it wasn’t long before her throat was sticky with thirst and her guts ached for nourishment.
Her limbs were tiring as the night progressed, but determined as ever to reach a place of occupation, she continued and was rewarded, for as midnight approached she saw in the distance a glow in the sky, and as she crested a hill and looked down into a valley, saw the bright and sparkling fairy lights of a great city. It was still some distance away, but now, a sense of renewed enthusiasm coursed through her, and looking up to the glowing round smile of Mani, gave a silent prayer of thanks for keeping the shield maiden’s boots true upon the road, for keeping her safe when all about her was the howl of danger and lighting the way to this sprawling metropolis.
The city lit up the sky with light and above it, the firmament was a mauve blush. To the woman that had been walking through the night, and that walk, with weariness, was becoming a trudge, it appeared glorious. SIGRÍÐR stopped for a moment and stayed her breath to view such a magnificent sight. But still, there were none others on her road to this place, none to ask of this town, or even inquire of its name. But it was indeed a welcome relief to see occupation after such solitude within the forest. Her mind cast about the opportunities that this could provide, not just shelter, food, drink- her immediate needs- but work, a contract perhaps. She had no coin, she was new in a land where she had no reputation and in her land, reputation was everything.
The maiden continues upon the road, refreshed by the sight of it and soon approaches what once would have been the city gates but now appears a broken archway and a wall that had been reduced to rubble. War had come recently to this place- this much was obvious, and as she moves along the thoroughfare that would have been at one point, a bustling, hustling merchants street, she sees yet more destruction. But still- human nature is such that even in such chaos, things are still encouraged to grow and when the few people that were still around at this time appear, she sees that they appear well dressed, well nourished and so it was not for want that the place looked as it did. And once, stood out among the many. A creature that seemed familiar to her, and it was from the forest that she recalled his resemblance. The troll stabber. A hand is raised in acknowledged greeting to William.
However, a greeting is all that is offered and she walks past him and on into the depths of this great city. It was after a while that she hails a woman that seemed to be loitering with purpose under a streetlight. As the shield maiden approaches, it was clear even to this ignorant creature that she was a whore. There was no judgment in this, however, SIGRÍÐR knew that it might cost her even to speak with her and she had no coin or anything else of value.
“Please Madam” approaches the maid “Can you tell me the name of this town?”
The shield maiden was dressed in garb that was serviceable to her purpose, leather and wool and of a naive creation, as was the lady of the lamp, whose clothing exposed more flesh than it covered. The warrior would have appeared like a country yokel to the wiley city dweller.
A cynical glance was cast SIGRÍÐR’S way and the woman’s gaze darts about the darkness before returning to the shield maiden.
“New here?” she asks, without responding to her question.
SIGRÍÐR gives the woman a bright smile and nods “Ja! New to this land in general” probably giving more information than she reasonably should, and unaware that perhaps the conversation was being heard by those that existed within shadow.
And there was movement- in the shadows that clouded the alleys between buildings with softness. There seemed to be inadequate light, but the shield maiden was not at all concerned, in fact, seemed to have an inordinate amount of self confidence in her attitude.
The whore places a cigarette between slack lips that were greasy with the over- application of lipstick. She turns away for a moment so that she can strike a light and give flame to the tobacco. Smoke curls from it and yet the shield maiden waits innocently, expectantly. The denizen of the night returns her gaze to the Nord, and looks her up and down, noting the shield, hanging from a strap of leather that the warrior holds with one hand at her shoulder, and the mean looking axe that is looped at her hip.
Fresh faced. Quite pretty really. Perhaps needing a little work, a little make up, something done with that braided hair.
“You are in Consequence” the whore finally drawls as out of nowhere a bag of coin drops upon the shield maidens head and startles her. Random. It was a perplexing thing indeed. Perhaps the Gods were toying with the shield maiden.
She turns as it slides to the floor and falls open, spilling its treasure of copper and silver upon the street. The whore’s eyes brighten as she sees it.
The shadows move. There are more people in the proximity than the shield maiden initially assessed, nefarious types that would do her harm perhaps and it was now that that they made themselves known. The sound of footsteps behind her and SIGRÍÐR turns.
A blow to her skull takes her by surprise and leaves her stunned and the world swimming before her eyes.
Three hulking great fellows, all of them with a dangerous, feral gleam in their eyes, one armed with a cosh that he has used to assault the maiden. The shield is released and drops to the floor with a clatter and SIGRÍÐR staggers to the side, automatically raising her arms to protect herself from further blows. A warm trickle runs down from her brow to her temple and she is bleeding.
The Nord makes no noise other than a grunt from such an attack but it was well placed, designed no doubt to relieve her of her consciousness as well as the mysterious bag of coin. The maiden feels hands grab at her and is vaguely aware of the whore racing to snatch at the coin that lies at her feet.
By now she is aware of the amount of assailants and the self serving whore that is on her hands and knees on the road and scraping the coin up. So- it was always mean’t to be as such, a trap perhaps for those innocent newcomers to the town. Or perhaps just some thugs taking advantage of an opportunity. SIGRÍÐR’S arms are grabbed and held and it was reflexes that would snap out a boot and aim it at the whore’s face. The toe takes her viciously below the chin, causing her teeth to clench about her tongue and blood spill from between soured lips, and her head to snap back upon her neck. The woman was sent sprawling back into the filth of the street.
Another blow was aimed at the maiden’s head but she struggles such that it merely glances from a scalp already slick with blood. There was the sound of someone slipping upon her shield, the sound of it skidding and a curse as the assailant stumbles. Her left arm is free.
This whole situation would be regrettable.
Adrenalin starts to flow, clearing mind of fog, and muscle of weariness. The sound of her pulse pounding through her ears and a high pitched whine that grows in volume until it peaks and there is silence. And so it begins.
A red mist descends upon her vision, creating a tunnel from which all things happened at a distance. Her body moves with pre-programmed precision. With her left arm once more under her control, she turns to face that villain that still holds her, swinging her arm and making her hand into a fist. That hard ball of skin and bone smashes up against his ear and then moves to grapple the clothing at his chest.
His grip is loosening, first by the sudden change in her movements and then as she delivers pain of her making. A cry from him and his grip is gone, but she quickly plays the advantage and brings her head back to smash it into the bridge of his nose.
There is a moment to feel it deconstruct beneath her forehead and as she releases him, a right hook from another of the villains takes her in the mouth. SIGRÍÐR staggers back from the blow, her mouth filling with coppery heat.
It was enough to create a space between them of just a few paces. Enough for her to then ready an attack and for the first time be on the offensive and in control. Not, as some weak and feeble tourist that was about to be fleeced or drugged and sold in the fleshpots of Consequence. Long may these villains regret that decision and forever carry the scars as a reminder.
Only two remained on their feet. A hulk of a fellow still brandishing a cosh and facial features twisted with hate and loathing. His accomplice, who seemed less certain of this fight now that one of their number was laid out on the ground with a ruined nose and the whore had managed to get to her feet and was running away down the street screaming for all she was worth.
SIGRÍÐR appeared as though a woman possessed by demonic forces, with hair matted with blood from a scalp wound that still poured blood down from her brow to leave her looking like some demented devil of Hel.
The Nord withdraws her weapon, and even has time to give them a grin that shines white teeth through the crimson mess, eyes wide and gleaming with madness and with a shriek like a Valkyrie, runs at them.
To defend himself, the hood with the cosh attempts to beat at her once more, but the blow is caught upon a block, arm against arm. Two strikes from her axe- one into the joint that holds arm to shoulder and contains a thick artery that services the limb. With a crunch, it finds both muscle and bone and provides a fountain of yet more blood that sprays across the Nord’s form.
It smoothly transitions into a backswing that takes the villain across the cheek with a crack- iron against flesh. It opens up an L shaped flap of skin that reveals the gleam of bone, the void of his mouth and the pearl of exposed teeth. A hard shove of her shoulder against his chest and he is already falling while next that axe curves about in an arc with energy that moves her body sideways on to the next assailant, giving him less area to make an attack.
Not that he seemed able to, for although he was moving towards SIGRÍÐR, his face held naught but confusion as his brain registers that she has just taken out his Commander and a man that he always thought invincible.
This did not stop that vicious axe then sweeping upwards with tremendous force and burying itself in the remaining attackers jaw, cleaving chin and tooth and tongue and making a mess of his nose until he gurgles with the release of blood and would have screamed had his mouth the ability to open.
He immediately falls back onto the ground, the axe slips from her grasp and goes with him, but she is upon him before his body settles on the road, wrenching that axe from its bony covenant with a sickening crunch and finishing him off with a swift blow to the crown.
SIGRÍÐR then merely stands for a second, chest heaving and covered in her blood and the blood of her foe. The whole process had taken perhaps 20 seconds from grab to deathblow and three men lay at her feet.
It was then that a whistling was heard coming up the street, a figure moving from street light to street light as the screams of the whore had brought more attention, and what appeared to be a town guard or a peacekeeper. He appeared uniformed and unconcerned at what he had just witnessed, moving to stand over the men and peer down at them with some scrutiny.
SIGRÍÐR is ready and waiting for any others that would make an issue of it, but the guard straightens up and holds up his hands and signifies that it is done.
“Hold now woman! Stay your hand!” says the guard to the shield maiden, as the villain with the ruined nose starts to come around and rolls in pain at the mess that was his face.
The second is bleeding out and dying. His arm hanging by a slip of sinew and muscle, the bone ruined, the cleft artery flooding the street with his lifeblood. The third is mercifully dead. His face appeared as though it has been split in two and his skull is caved in and misshapen about the temple.
The air whines from SIGRÍÐR’S lungs and it sounds like she is about to burst into tears but it was merely the rush of adrenalin still coursing about her and causing her to shake and to shudder.
“We’ve been after these hoods for a while now. They are the very worst kind of criminal. Believe me- you have done me a favour”
SIGRÍÐR does not respond, merely looks to the guard with confused defiance, whilst dripping in the blood of her enemies and thrumming with an energy that would take some time to dissipate.
If it was a reputation that she was looking for then she would get it for word was already going around the streets of the woman warrior who had taken out the leader and henchmen of a notorious criminal gang.
As the guard pulls the survivor to his feet, wrenches his arms behind his back and puts him in cuffs, he looks at the mess of blood and gristle that had been a rather aquiline nose and says with some degree of dry humor
“Looks like you got off lightly, Charlie”.
The villain groans. The guard then glances to SIGRÍÐR and holding the villains cuffs with one hand, he then points down the street.
“There is a pretty decent alehouse down the road there. Called the Blue Moon. You won’t be able to miss the sign.”
Another groan from the unfortunate Charlie which results in a knee casually jabbed into the plexus on the back of his thigh from the guard and the villain’s leg folds beneath him. On his knees, his head bowed, and held securely by the guard, he appears a most forlorn sight.
“Harry does a decent ale and he’d probably be able to help you get cleaned up”
SIGRÍÐR was stunned by this reaction, and was at least expecting a fight, an attempt at an arrest.
“I’ll come find you later for a statement, so…don’t leave town”
The Uniform gives SIGRÍÐR a wry and knowing smile, bright with admiration. He had seen the whole thing while he was patrolling and since the war, the people of Consequence had little patience for the gangs and toughs that had run the streets previously. She had cleaned up a mess- nothing more and had nothing to be worried about- or at least, that’s what was going in his report.
A nod of approval and he tugs the remaining thug to his feet who groans and complains but then becomes silent when he notices the state of his companions. He turns and is about to leave but then stops and as an afterthought, looks back at SIGRÍÐR, tips his hat and says three words before dragging the thug away.
“Welcome to Consequence”