High In The Timber Tower

The winter’s chill bit her pale cheeks as she strode across the town, halting twenty feet before the gate. Two young guards, Hrór and Dyrhelm, stood there, leaning against their spears, laughing merrily. Their words of joy were muffled by the howling wind, the distance, and their inability to fully finish their sentences as they were disrupted by yet another fit of laughter.

She smiled, daring not to bother their mirth. Such joy was scarce midst war. Her gaze traveled away and around, until it landed on a more solemn figure. A tall guard standing still high in the timber tower. The dark structure below his feet was shrouded by frost, glittering in the coy morning light. She skipped swiftly forth and climbed up the icy ladders.

The creaking of the wood warned the guard of her coming as he stood there facing her when she pushed herself up and hopped to stand tall. Tall she was, but unable to match the towering figure of old Héahfram.

The man’s left eye observed her with disinterest from under thick silver eyebrow. His other eye was hidden by an additional ornamented guard in his helm, designed to hide the right half of his face.

She smiled at him faintly. In contrast the corners of his mouth remained aligned toward the ground, his words blunt, “You were not exiled?” She constrained her emotions, replying calmly, “Good ǽr-margen Master Héahfram, I was not by our Reeve’s mercy.” He let out a grunt which marked an opinion left unspoken. After a brief silence he turned away from her to observe the scattered bushes and distant trees brushed by the winter winds. Such was his duty.

She let out a slow steaming breath of air, “Well, perhaps it gladdens you, Héahfram, that I am not allowed to serve... At least not until I can prove my obedience.”.Héahfram moved his lips below his white thick whiskers, replying nothing. The years had taught him he ought not to speak his mind about women... in the presence of women.

She looked downward, before lifting her chin and inquiring with a loud, clear tone which carried no emotion, “I have come here to ask if you have pieces of armour that need to be polished or blades that require to be sharpened, Master Héahfram?”

Héahfram grinned under his whiskers, before slowly removing his helmet and turning to face her again - this time, the both halves of his face visible. The previously hidden right side, was eaten away by gruesome scars. Whatever had stolen his skin, had also taken his eye, leaving only a dark hollow gap there. Slowly the man pointed his gloved finger at the hideous crimson hole, his wrinkles twisting into a wider grin, “Perhaps you could polish this, frowe Faerhild?”

She smiled slowly, a flicker of amusement in her blue eyes as she looked up at him, “Oh, Master Héahfram, that worked well when I was seven winters seen, but now I have witnessed your ugly face too many times to be frightened away by it.” The old man grunted his disappointment at the young woman’s lack of dismay, lifting his helmet back over his white hair. He casted a solemn look down at her, “I will bring you armour to polish and blades to sharpen once my duty is fulfilled here. Now off you go.” He waved her away with a gesture down at the ladders. She nodded with a smile and stepped to climb down the stairs. The old man observed her go, his one gray eye narrowing slowly. Of all the creatures he had witnessed, during the decades he had lived, women remained the most mysterious and unpredictable.