Chains: Part One – The Black Ends

“The world is going to end. You know that, right? So why bother arguing with me? Hoping, or acting any different can’t change the facts. If you want kids, too late, the Fimbul Winter is here,” Bow said. She was noticeably short, narrow, and had black hair cut in a flat line of bangs. Blood was always on the edges of her subtly angry blue eyes. It wasn’t normal blue, but the type bleached across a warm ocean shore a thousand winters away. The blue was sharp, calculating, a teal fire encircling a pinpointing black dot.

“We don’t know the winter that well yet, Bow. Could just be extra cold,” Vrendel said. He was walking on-point as they approached Frigga. He sounded like a deep-voiced golem of plated steel. Vrendel was the muscle behind the two of them. He was tall, broad-shouldered, but soft on his feet like a spy or prison guard. He’d been that position at some penitentiaries throughout Midgard, but now he was a bounty hunter called Vrendel, and was strangely always the optimist out of the two.

“This cold is different, Vren. Besides, the seer at Grayton’s castle predicted the Fimbul Winter. She’s never been wrong. I swear, the older the hag, the more consistent they are about what they can do. Woman at her age are so merciless,” Bow said.

“How old is she again?” Vrendel said.

“Nobody knows, but it’s bad. Next time you have to get the assignment from her,” Bow said.

“Fine,” Vrendel said. He adjusted the dark-metaled mace slung over his back. It was a typical weapon for a brawler like him. The end was a bladed sphere, with a narrow neck stretched down to a leather handle. The mace could extend with a ball and chain, but that was a hidden weapon for emergencies.

“Let’s stop a second, Vren. We’re a few miles out from Frigga, this is where the Black Ends are thickest,” Bow said. They were walking a narrow, white-washed path, which had blips of broken woods aching over its uneven turns. The sky was a pale white, and the sun was sunken backwards behind its murky veil. The cold between the path and trees was searing. It was tight enough to dry the skin out around your lips and nose.

Bow stopped and semi-kneeled down in the center of the path. She narrowed her harsh eyes until they looked like closed lines, and scoured the brambly tangles of the Black Ends. Bow was wearing a navy-blue armor beneath her fur cloak, which was cut in the middle like a trench coat. It helped mask her crossbows, throwing knives, hatchets, and lances. She knew she was small in stature, but she made up for it in reflexes and precision. She was particularly deadly with her large crossbow, which she painted red in case she dropped in the midst of a melee. The weapon had a nickname more intimidating than her. It was called “Blood Thunder.” She always had it loaded and strapped around the left side of her chest and breast.

Bow and Vrendel were approaching the densest part of the Black Ends, where the forest literally curled over, like it was trying to grab or knock you from the walking path. The forest was always a barren sight; it was constant mess of black twig and branch, with no birds, plants, or frost even settling on it.

The Black Ends were known to be haunted by the wraith of a dead blind giant, who had an appetite for human eyes. Phantoms were pretty common along the border of Jotunheim where Frigga was nestled. When a giant dies, it leaves traces of itself in the air, rock, and sometimes, even the sky.

“The old hag’s due for a mix up, Bow. Besides, until I see a pack of wolves turning on each other, I’ll say just it’s cold,” Vrendel said, walking ahead and ignoring Bow’s scouting.

“This is reality Vren. Stop acting like you aren’t thinking, noticing, or acknowledging that things are happening around you, and that the twilight of the gods isn’t coming,” Bow said.

The black-tipped strings of the dead woods bristled about as the winter wind cut the forest.

“You mean, Ragnarok?” Vrendel said, scanning the woods.

“Yeah, Ragnarok. It’s coming, and all we can do is do everything good with this latest job, then, die. Maybe a Valkyrie will pick us up like sleeping baby, and stock us in Valhalla. There, we’ll drink, fuck, and wait for the undead to storm onto our heavenly shore,” Bow said.

Vrendel stopped walking and adjusted the armor around his chest. He was wearing plated armor, which was big and bulky, like he was wearing multiple layers of it. Not only did he wear it to house a variety of knives and blades inside the flattened blue pieces, but it also make him look bigger than he actually was, so he could intimidate whatever brigand would want to rob them in the winter night. Vrendel’s face was the only uncovered part of his body, the rest was blanketed in squares of metal, which were etched in gold crosses, twirls, and dragon’s mouths. Vrendel’s face was square-sturdy, brown-eyed, short-haired, and edged with a slightly growing beard. He was missing a few teeth from his prison days, so he rarely smiled without parting his lips. A round, brown shield dangled at his waist like a toy.

“I’m sorry I mentioned children,” he said.

Vrendel stopped, and backpedaled towards Bow, and pulled a brown hood over his head, which was nestled in the silver back plate of his armor.

“It’s coming, huh? Remember to not look at it, or else it will have the advantage. It can’t hurt us without eyes,” Bow said. She pulled a similar looking hood over her hair, until a crooked cloth line hid her face down to her mouth. The wind picked up, and the earth seemed uneven beneath their plated boots. A shape was approaching them in the woods. It looked human, but without any muscular lines or boundaries. It was a shadow, with a blood red interior of rotted organs, and sideways black-teeth. Vrendel glanced at it for just a second, before he pulled the hood down to his chin.

“You think this thing might’ve wiped out Frigga, that’s why we haven’t heard from it?” Vrendel said, watching his footsteps along the path.

“I hope not, I was hoping for something really sinister. Keep walking Vren, it’ll test us soon enough. We’re only a few miles out,” Bow said.

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15 thoughts on “Chains: Part One – The Black Ends

  1. Pingback: Chains: Part 12 – Children – Patrick W. Marsh

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  4. Pingback: Beneath the Chains – What the Monster Said

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