Ulfridda sighed as she stood from Bear’s shrine, her old bones creaking in their sockets, and she drew her tawl around her a little tighter. Blast, that she was old, and the morning sun could no longer rouse her. Blast, that the nights chill did not call her to sleep either, and steadily she had become more nocturnal. So every night she trekked from her modest cottage through the pass to the wayfarer foothills, nodding solemnly at the Wolfborn of the Eastern Watchpost, and making her climb slowly down to the Heart of the Bear. She drew her small flame closer now as she began to make her way back up the hill, not straying from the road. Sons of Svanir were common in these parts and they would not pass up the chance to capture an elementalist of her quality, especially a female to enslave, or worse.
Ulfridda shuddered at the thought but took comfort in her old face, hoping it some defence against the Sons of Svanir. Her chuckle as she reminisced a rude name for the group was almost overloud against the faint popping sound that came from the river. Her gaze turned towards the strange noise and through the trees she spied a soft light. The hair on the nape of her neck stood up and she instinctively turned towards the element of Earth, gathering its power about her fingers and letting it course across her flesh, strengthening her far greater than her withered old figure could normally muster. Blast, that even in old age she had that spark of childish curiosity, and she turned off the road towards the faint light.
The distance from the road to the river was not far, albeit masked by a copse of trees that could only just be seen in the dim light, so she made slow time. As she walked, the air became colder and colder around her. Old as she was, a fool she was not, and she turned her focus back to Flame, prepared to face whatever threat Jormag had sent down the river this time. The grass crackled underfoot and the sand by the banks of the river glassed over. She warmed the area near her feet, as a fall for her old frame could cripple her.
The river Grawlenfjord had completely iced over. The freezing cold radiated outwards from the centre, as if the wake of some great vessel had frozen solid as it passed. She spied no imminent threat and headed further south, past the drake’s nest, towards where the river turned eastwards. She knew the Svanir camp was close, but hoped that they were all asleep and dreaming of the evil deeds done for their dragon spirit
“No glory for dragon” she whispered, a quiet protest against Jormag’s corruption, and continued on.
Turning around the bend, she saw the source of the cold: a spearhead of ice, floating in the water, large enough for two norn to sit astride, or perhaps ten asura to straddle. ‘Or to bicker over’ she thought to herself, and stifled a cough at her strange moment of humour.
She inched out onto the water and made her way to the spearhead. She touched it gingerly, and inhaled sharply when her finger stuck to the icy surface. She funnelled some heat towards it, and its cold grip let her go. Hearing a wolf’s howl in the distance, she peered across the water and saw the frozen lake beginning to thaw. One section, larger than an Owlgriffon, broke off with an almighty crack and she winced at the noise.
She stood, breathless for many moments. Had that sound woken the Sons, she would be in grave danger.
Thinking it safe, she began funnelling heat to her hands again and the glassy surface of the spearhead began to thaw. The frozen surface gradually cleared and she saw it was inhabited. She could not make out the figure inside, thinking perhaps it was only a suit of armor, until the soft breeze ruffled the body’s fur and she realised:
‘Blast, it’s a Kodan!’
Working with haste now, she called upon Flame, creating a ring of fire around the spearhead, and watched as the ice melted away from his shaggy form. The light of the fire revealed pools of blood coalesced with the ice, and when she was satisfied enough ice had melted, she called upon the healing Water, and sent it washing over his many deep gashes, reknitting broken bones and torn muscle in his chest.
‘Or at least, I think it’s a He’ She thought, before a shout interrupted her work.
“It’s just a Norn female and a dying Kodan! Kill them both!”
Ulfridda barely had time to turn around when the Kodan’s paw grasped her on the forearm.
“Please—don’t let them kill me—I have—Jormag—Drakkar—ICEBROOD—A—Solution”
The Kodan’s breath escaped him, and he fell unconscious.
Ulfridda was now determined to save this Kodan, and old as she was, she still had fight in her. She turned towards the Sons of Svanir now stumbling down the bank towards her. She counted maybe ten, five wielding malevolent greatswords, some behind with axes, and one holding a great stave, topped with a corrupted shard of ice. She guessed him their leader.
She reached beneath her tawl and found her two most precious items. From her left, she drew a slight scepter, and from her right, a curved dagger. She drew on the power of air, and let go of a blinding flash, taking the opportunity to blast the nearest foes away from her.
She then focussed on the earth, and felt it rumble beneath her. The earth churned, swallowing three of the Svanir cultists, and four others fell to the ground, bleeding from multitudes of cuts. Although bleeding, they continued their assault towards her, hefting their greatswords up and swinging in her direction. She focussed on the one furthest away and felt the power of Air surge through her, and her body transformed into pure energy, flashing in a line towards her foe, felling those in between. Attuning to Flame, she reduced the last one to ash with a cone of flame. An axe flew towards her head, and she dodge rolled, feeling a vertebrae crack. She called in flame again, dropping a dragons tooth down onto more Sons, until only their leader remained.
“You’re dead meat, woman. Jormag does not accept weakness like yours”
“Weakness boy?” Ulfridda gestured towards his fallen comrades “This is weakness? I wonder if your Svanir has ever heard of Ulfridda, Slayer of Modmagniir, giant king before Korag.”
She paused, letting her introduction sink in.
“Do you see me as weak now, Boy?”
The leader was shaken, but tried to not betray himself. “You may have beaten these men, but Jormag’s power is greater than you!”
Ulfridda smirked. Old as she was, overproud she was not. The Kodan was dying, and she was wasting time talking to this Dragon-worshipping fool. She called upon flame again, and summoned an elemental, commanding it destroy the young leader. His screams were cut short by the blood in his lungs boiling and he clawed at his face, dark holes where his eyes had melted from the heat, and the forest fell silent again.
She turned, testing her injured back, and hobbled towards the prone Kodan form. Channelling Air, she lifted his body skywards, and began a slow crawl to Hoelbrak. She could not heal him here, but in Bear’s lodge she would have her things, and a warm bed for her new patient.
Walking through the Eastern Watchpost, she jabbed the sleeping Wolfborn awake with her knarled cane.
“Get your father. And Eir. Hell, wake everyone. Have I a tale for you.”