“She’s no daughter of mine!” Valgoth roared. “I have no daughter, and she’s no place in my clan!” Hylda cried out in a loud voice, “No! I won’t leave her to the wolves. She’s yours, not some filthy welp you sent to try to seduce me. I’ve been faithful to you! Only to you!”
“Begone, wench! You’ve made your choice, now die by it.” Valgoth planted a kick into Hylda’s face, as blood flew from her mouth and landed in the soft white snow. “Should I see you again, I’ll gut you and that squalling runt! You are banished forthwith and forever!”
Hylda watched as Valgoth and his entourage of warriors vanished into the thick sheet of snow that fell from the heavens. She stared down at the baby wrapped in mere swaddling clothes, and tried to smile. The smile didn’t materialize.
I must find shelter if we are to survive. Hylda stumbled forward, the babe in her arms and held close to her breast, Hylda continued to move. Each step came at a steep cost of stamina, and soon Hylda stopped beside a juniper tree.
She peeled the cloth back and stared into the deep blue eyes of the babe. “You need a name, youngling. I shall call you Hekla.” Hylda leaned back and stared up at the night sky and watched the snow fall to the ground. Below her, the howl of hungry wolves sounded, and a fierce wind blew through the thin line of trees.
I must keep moving.
Hylda stood to her feet, and started forward. I must find shelter. The babe needs warmth, as do I. Each step seemed to grow ever heavier, but Hylda kept going. As she climbed ever upward, she talked to the babe.
“One day,” Hylda whispered, “You will become a fierce warrior. No one will dare oppose you or your will. If they do, you make them pay the price.”
Behind her, the wolves howled again. This time, the howls were louder. “They have our scent! I can’t fight them all off!” Hylda looked around and found a piece of wood and tapped it against a tree. It was solid. This club of wood will suffice. Come at me, wolves.
At the top of Mt. Fakir, Hylda tied the babe to a sturdy limb out of reach of the wolves, and she turned to face the pack. “Valgoth is your father’s name, Hekla. He’s worthless and left us to die. Should you survive this, repay him in kind.”
Hylda faced off with the alpha, a large, black-furred beast with blood-stained teeth. Its red eyes bored into Hylda’s as the rest of the pack circled around. “Well, come get it you curs,” Hylda shouted as she closed with the alpha. The beast faked lunging forward, and then stepped back. Hylda didn’t stop her charge, instead raced forward and swung the wood upward and into the bottom jaw of the beast.
The sickening crunch of solid wood breaking bone filled the air, as the wolf let out a yelp. Behind her, a wolf leapt onto the back of Hylda, and bit down into her left shoulder. “Get off!” Hylda shouted, shimming to shake the beast. Another rushed in and bit into her right ankle. Hylda swung the club and it collided into the side of the ankle biter. With a roar, Hylda lifted the club overhead and brought it down onto the head of the wolf at her feet. The wounded alpha sought to limp off, but the pack closed in on him. Hylda turned to face the wolf that had attacked her from behind. Blood covered Hylda’s face, her breaths coming in ragged gasps, as she pointed the wooden club at the backbiter.
“You will die on this mountain,” Hylda challenged. “And my daughter, Hekla, will avenge me one day.” The wolf’s lips pulled back, its bloody teeth glinting, and Hylda cracked her neck. She rushed toward the wolf, and the wolf closed with her. At the last moment, the wolf leapt forward, its jaws closing on Hylda’s throat, and the snap of bone brought Hylda’s last charge to an end.
Snow continued to fall during the night, the only sound came from the howling of the wolves, and the cry of a babe named Hekla.
Leave a Reply