The two bounty hunters couldn’t really say anything as they watched Ugaba fade away. Vrendel was breathing hard, pushing plums of steam out into the air. His armor was so large and bulky, it looked like a small city pulsating on his back. His brown shield wasn’t shattered, but bent inwards like bread. He shook it, hoping it would pop back into place.
“We should get moving, Frigga’s just up the road,” Bow said.
“Just give me a second. I got whacked by an undead giant after all,” Vrendel said. He started walking, staggered, and coughed up a blob of hot blood.
“More than a second, I need a little more,” Vrendel said.
“You can only have a few. With all your fluids, plus her remains, the wolves will be out soon,” Bow said.
“I’m not sure they’re going to want her leftovers,” Vrendel said, coughing.
He shook his shoulders back and forth a little bit. The muscles in his chest were trying to separate his ribs with swelling. Even with Vrendel’s large form and abundance of armor, a hit from a giant normally kills. In previous combat with giants, trolls, and anything tall with heinous amounts of strength, Vrendel would dodge their swipes with side steps. He was light on his feet for a big guy, but he knew they didn’t have a chance against Ugaba unless they exposed the charm. He used his body as decoy and now was paying for it.
Bow dissected the Black Ends as Vrendel recovered. The forest looked less villainous. The trees had now relaxed. There wasn’t a dead giant peering over their shadows any longer. Still, it wasn’t easy to see through the layers of pointed woods. However, at the very end of her eyes she could see the wall surrounding Frigga.
“They already have their Fimbul Walls up?” Bow said. She patted Vrendel’s huge shoulder as she walked up the path a little bit further. “How’d they know to have them up? That bitch of a crone in the castle never leaks her predictions. If they lost contact, how would they know about her?”
“Probably just guessed it was coming, or they might just be paranoid or extra ambitious,” Vrendel said. He started walking gingerly. He used the crown of his mace like a cane. He stretched his shoulders again and tried to pick up the pace. He knew Bow liked him, but not enough to fight off a horde of wolves if he was too slow.
“No Vren. No shitty little town this close to Jotunheim is ambitious. I was born in one of these frosty pits. I made it out, but most people never do. You got to have a certain type of character to make it happen.” Bow said. More flattened bits of snow mixed with the overcast sunlight. A few crows cackled nearby.
“You can’t fault a small town for making some ramparts to keep the wildlife out. You’re perceptive and you came from a shit-hole. Maybe the dice just rolled right for Frigga and they’ve got someone like you living there,” Vrendel said.
“Eh,” Bow said, ignoring the compliment.
They kept moving. They didn’t say anything. They didn’t even breathe too hard. They didn’t want to draw any attention to themselves. Bow was on point, so she could see anything trying to flank them in the forest. Vrendel was always in the rear for the simple reason that if someone or something attacked, his armor and guile could probably postpone the intended fatality for at least one strike.
The Fimbul Wall of Frigga began to appear more and more as they walked, like a tangle-wood wave beating some white shore. The barrier was only meant to be constructed for the winter of all winters, but there had been no communication with the oracle and Frigga. The city had no idea they were entering the twilight of the gods. When Fimbul came, the wolves would sense their king Fenrir coming for Ragnarok, and in homage would enter into the very same phantom rage he did.
Yellow and thatched roofs started to pop over the disheveled line of mortared and broken trees. They looked like misplaced mushrooms. Smoke was absent from their stony chimneys. The Iron Citadel stood distant in the whiteness of the sky, like a shy child at a birthday party. You could only make out its metal forehead against the flurries.
“Almost there, huh? Felt like a long while,” Vrendel said, looking over his shoulder at the forest behind them.
A howl, high and sinister echoed on the white air. It was a wolf, but with something mystical mixing in its esophagus.
“Fuck, was it waiting for me to speak?” Vrendel said, spinning around. The distant road was full of eyes, savage and yellow, beaming back at the two hunters.
“The forest is gone, so is the path. They filled in the spaces between the trees,” Bow said. She pulled Blood Thunder out of her fur and jammed it into her right shoulder.
“I’ve never known that many wolves to be in one spot before.”