We continue our story from “The Prisoner of Three Armies, Part 2“
Vinessa had been sold to a disappointing man, one larger around the waist than around the arms despite his poverty. Slaves were extremely cheap these days, and he was too short-sighted to realize that someday that might change. So, Hedenfr, for this was the man who had bought Vinessa and a few others for less than twenty maines each, had come to almost completely rely on slaves to get the work on his farm on the icy beach around the port done.
At this time of year, Hedenfr had weeds in his collard field, and he decided it would be the first thing he set Vinessa and the others to fix. He’d already inspected each of the slaves now standing with him in his yard before purchasing them, but as he ran his eyes over them again, they narrowed with reprehension at the lack of scars and bruises and calluses on a few of the women’s hands and faces, especially Vinessa.
“Which castle did they kidnap you from, princess?” he asked with a pointing finger.
“Captured me from the garrison, thank you,” Vinessa said shortly, in Icelandic. She had to say something, and she was going to make it snappy.
Hedenfr was less surprised than she expected that she could speak his tongue.
“The garrison, huh? Calling yourself a soldier with that pretty face?”
The fairness of her skin and the lack of scars, cuts and bruises, minus the fading one on her left arm, told the bulky man that she was not a threat, that she wasn’t very experienced with actual warfare. What it should have told Hedenfr was that Vinessa wasn’t very experienced with actually getting hit.
Hedenfr glared in a way that told Vinessa and her fellow slaves that he was quite good at glaring despite his portly body.
“Well then, soldier, I expect more out of you than anyone else. If anyone manages to pull more of those weeds than our special little soldier here,” Hedenfr said, gesturing vaguely to everyone present, “you get her next meal. Got it?”
Vinessa glanced over her shoulder at the weeds in the hard, cold ground as everyone else nodded. Then, she looked down at her hands, her soft, beautiful, lethal hands.
Nah, she thought, looking back up at Hedenfr as he started issuing slaves to specific parts of the field, taking in the fact that the big man employed a total of zero overseers, and was armed only with a sword at his obese waist. I’ve got a bigger weed to pull.
Breathing heavily, Vinessa sank down to her knees in the snow, resting her body against a hard, dead tree. She was dressed warmly, and well-fed, because what was the point of snapping someone’s neck and escaping captivity if you were just going to starve or freeze to death in the wilderness outside the port city? It wasn’t as if Hedenfr needed this warm Ashfeld coat he’d probably bought off of raiders.
What now? Vinessa thought, looking back down the forested mountainside at the port city through which she’d been brought to this icebound land. She squeezed the sword and dagger she’d stolen to comfort her and to move her freezing fingers, and shrugged the bag full of supplies off so she could rest.
The more she looked at it, and surveyed the empty surrounding lands, the more Vinessa decided that her only way back to Ashfeld was the way she’d come here. She wasn’t staying in Valkenheim; the bruise on her arm was fading but the person who’d given it to her wasn’t, and she needed to fix that.
As Vinessa contemplated how to re-enter the city and stow aboard some pirate ship without getting caught, she heard the familiar sound of rustling people in the snowy woods around her, and this time she decided to pick up her weapons and stand. She was better armored this time, and if she needed to escape, she wasn’t leaving her weapons behind.
They’re better at sneaking than those Vikings were, which isn’t hard.
“Who’s there?” she demanded, crouching in her combat stance.
The people who rose from the snowy bushes wore armor and spoke a language familiar to anyone who, like Vinessa, regularly surrounded themselves with enemies.
But this time, fortunately for Vinessa, she knew these ones better than by their armor alone.
We continue our story here