Chapter 7 – A New Home
Part 1: Acceptance

As they came up the hill towards Valtheim, they were met by a woman. “What’s this?” She asked, pointing at Ienarath.

“Ingrid, this is Ienarath.” Skinner replied.

“Since when did we start dealing in people?” Ingrid asked. “Not sure how the chief is going to like this.”

“I owe this girl my life, besides, she’s an alchemist. You know, poisons and such,” said Skinner.

“Ha! An alchemist?! How old are are, sweetie? 14?” Scoffed Ingrid.

“Thirteen.” Answered Ienarath, her brow beginning to furrow.

“Thirteen, even better! Yeah, chief is gonna love this! Another mouth to feed, but hey, she’s an alchemist..a 13 year old alchemist. Oooo, watch out, everyone!”

“That’s enough, Ingrid! Of all people, I was sure you’d appreciate another female presence. Where is he, anyway?” 

“The usual. Up.” Ingrid pointed to the top of the far tower. “Hope you’re one hell of an alchemist, girl, for your sake.”

“Come on, Ienarath.” Skinner said, as he started walking towards the door of the near tower.

But Ienarath was angry with the woman, so she stopped and pulled out her phial of poison. Then, taking the dagger she had, she ripped off a bit of her sleeve and dabbed some of the reddish liquid on the edge of it. Then she threw the cloth into the nearby fire and set the dagger down. Looking up at Ingrid, who was simply staring at her curiously, she said, “Here, then. If you don’t think I know what I’m doing, go ahead and give your thumb a little nick,” and with that, she started walking to the door. As she caught up to Skinner she said to him, “I get her coin purse.”

Skinner laughed loudly, “deal,” he said. “After you, Miss Ienarath.”

***

The tower wasn’t as dark as she thought it would be, thanks to a window overlooking the river below. The entry was smaller than she was expecting too, able to fit maybe two full grown men comfortably. There was a staircase to their immediate right, which they took. The stairs led up to a small alcove. From here a person could look out onto the road. Opposite, was an opening that lead to a spiral ramp going up. Going out and up, they came to the second floor of the first tower, here a long bridge connected the tower to the other one across the river.

Stepping into the second floor, Skinner hollered, “Sperge! C’mere a sec.”

The second floor of the tower had a wooden stairway that led to yet another level. This level and the floor above was separated only by a thin layer of wooden planks. The gaps between some of the planks, Ienarath noticed, were sizable enough that a skilled bowman could probably fit an arrow through. She wondered if the others had ever noticed. Between these gaps, Ienarath was able to see this Sperge person easily before he came down.

“What is it? Whoa! Who is this?” Asked Sperge when he saw the girl.

“This is Ienarath, and I’m about to present her to Baldr. He in a good mood, do ya know?” Replied Skinner.

“Well, yeah, good as any, I guess. So, Ienarath, what are you all about, then?” Asked Sperge, his jovial tone not matching his appearance.
Sperge was a moderately built man dressed in mismatched leather armor. On his back was a bow and a score of arrows. He had dark hair that was cut into a mohawk which gave him a fairly dangerous look. The scar across his cheek helped out in that respect, as well.

“I’m an alchemist,” Ienarath answered.

“Are ya, now? Well, that’d be a welcome addition, for sure. Doesn’t seem like we ever have enough healing potions around. Good luck, kid.” Sperge said, as they were about to leave.

“By the way, you’d likely be sleeping over here, but that’s up to Baldr,” said Skinner they reached the doorway.

Ienarath looked out as they crossed the bridge. They were high over the rushing water and extremely exposed, with the exception of the middle of the bridge, where there was a decorative overhand and a slight dip where the the two parts of the bridge met the center support. She could see for quite a distance in several directions from here. The view was breathtaking; she had never seen such a thing in all her life. Windhelm was cold and barren, and even when she did get beyond the walls, everything around was either frozen, or in a permanent state of hibernation. Even the evergreens seemed lackluster. As they approached the wooden door at the end of the bridge, it opened up and a man walked out. He was large and carried a big round shield and had a hand axe on his hip.

Skinner greeted the man, “Bjorn.”

“What in the name of Talos did you bring home now, Skinner?” Replied Bjorn.

“This is Ienarath, and I think she’ll be a welcome addition to our family. She knows alchemy.”

“Hmm, seems young to be much of an alchemist, but Baldr might think otherwise. You’re timing is good, actually, he’s in a pretty good mood. So, is this what kept you?” Asked Bjorn, gesturing towards Ienarath. “You were expected back last night.”

Skinner answered, “No, but I don’t think I would’ve gotten back at all, if it wasn’t for this girl. I stumbled into a bear while on my way to the prison. Bastard surprised me and got me good before I could draw my weapon. If Ienarath here hadn’t healed me up, I probably would’ve bled-out a long time ago. But it wasn’t a complete loss, I was able to skin the thing, so we’ll have more hide to work with.”

“Meat?” Asked Bjorn.

“No. The carcass spent all night sitting on the ground by the river being picked apart by crows.  What was left was completely spoiled by morning.”

“Too, bad.”

“Yeah, I know.” And with a deep breath, Skinner continued, “alright, we’re off to Baldr.”

They went through the door and out a back opening, then hung a left and went up. “So, this’ll be where you’ll probably spend most of your time, I imagine,” said Skinner, as he showed Ienarath the alchemy table.

The table was certainly not as good as the one in the Phial, but it wasn’t in that bad of condition, either, considering that, at the moment, it was being treated as an end table. Ienarath was definitely excited at the idea of clearing off the junk, and being able to call it hers. They continued to climb up.

“This is Baldr’s,” said Skinner, motioning to a large bed and makeshift bedroom. They continued to climb. At the top was a covered wooden lookout platform. The view was amazing and Ienarath was sure they could see for miles around.

“Baldr? I’d like to present to you for consideration, Ienarath.”

The three of them talked for about 15 minutes when Baldr excused Skinner. With just Ienarath and Baldr now on the platform, the two of them spoke for probably another 10 minutes before making their way down.

Ienarath must have impressed Baldr, because the first thing he said when they got to ground level, where Skinner was talking with another man, was for Skinner to get her sleeping area set up.

“Skinner,” called Baldr, “help this girl get settled in. The room by the alchemy table will be hers, and then she’ll need someone to help her gather up some plants and things. And then tomorrow, she needs to begin training with a blade. And keep your eyes open for any armor that can be altered for her without too much trouble. I don’t want our budding potions master to be taken out by a simple arrow, or a dagger. 

“But first, I want a meeting. I’ve got a lead on a caravan that’s scheduled to go right past us in two days. We need to prepare.”

Continue >>

[Chapters]