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Her Viking Wolves(6)

By:Theodora Taylor

“That matters not now. Our father is away and our enemy could come at any time.” He points again to the mountain looming high behind their small village. “You will obey me and return to the mountain with the other women and children. Now.”

The mention of a coming enemy gives his sister pause. But only briefly.

“Our father has taught me to fight well,” she insists. “If he were here, he would let me face whatever enemy you claim is coming.”

Now Fenrisson’s eyes narrow. “This enemy is not imaginary, Sister. And Father taught you to fight, yes, but only so you might defend yourself in the absence of your male folk. If you return to the mountain now, there will be no need of such defense.”

Myrna juts her small chin into the air, her light brown face ablaze with defiance. Despite her small height, in that moment, with her fierce eyes and her wild red curls blowing in the wind, she looks to him like a Valkyrie from the old tales.

“But why did you send all the women and children away?” she demands in their mother’s tongue. “Why are you making ready for battle in Mother and Father’s absence? Father did not give word about any of this before he left.”

“No, he did not,” Fenrisson answers, also in their mother’s bold and tenacious language. “Because he did not know we would need to defend ourselves.”

Which is partially his fault. Over the years, he had thought much over how to convince his father of what must be done to prepare for this day, but there were too many unknown outcomes to risk him knowing.#p#分页标题#e#

If his father believed him, he would insist on leading his soldiers into the fight and would have his future taken away, as their great-aunt predicted. If his father did not believe him, Fenrisson might never have been able to convince him and his mother to embark on a long land journey to find him a mate. In the end, Fenrisson decided he must send his parents away to ensure their great-aunt’s prophecy did not come true.

“It was the only way to make sure he and mother survive,” he says to Myrna now.

“Survive what?” Myrna asks, looking very like their mother as she shakes her head. “What do you think we need to defend ourselves from?”

“We need to defend ourselves,” he says, pointing to his chest and then to Olafr. “You need to hide.”

“Why does he get to stay?” Myrna demands, jerking her head towards their brother, her arms crossed tightly in front of her wool tunic. “He is ever the wolf and cannot so much as raise a sword!”

Fenrisson exchanges a much-aggrieved look with his brother.

“Cease doing that!” Myrna very nearly screeches. “You have oft behaved as if you share a secret. Tell me, what is going on? And why do you permit Olafr to fight and not me?!”

“Myrna, I will not argue these petty points with you—”

“They are not petty—!”

“I must prepare the village to fight—”

“Fight who? Who could possibly pass through the inlet or come over the mountains without us knowing? Who would dare? You know what? You don’t even have to answer that, as our mother would say. In truth, if you are certain there is an enemy coming, I believe you. But I insist on fighting, too!”

Now it is Fenrisson’s turn to shake his head in the way of their mother. “I cannot. I would not lose you—”

“You will not lose me,” Myrna insists, her wide eyes beseeching him to believe her.

He hesitates and looks to Olafr. Olafr puts his nose to the ground, as if he also searches for the best path forward. It is true Myrna has no part in their aunt’s vision, but it is also true neither of them wishes to place her in harm’s way—

Three short horn blasts shatter the gray morning. And argument forgotten, the siblings look toward the mountain watchtower and then back to one another.

One short blast means travelers approach the village by sea via the inlet.

One long blast and two short ones means a new wolf has come via the time gates atop the mountain.

But three short blasts is something they have only heard tale of until now. This signal has not been given since the time of their father’s father, when he defeated the last north wolf tribe who did not wish to call him fenrir, by mating with their only princess. Yet despite the signal’s long disuse, they know without a doubt what it means.

Enemies approach.

But from where? Fenrisson looks to the left and right but sees nothing. The inlet is frozen over. And if attackers marched on them via the mountains, he would certainly have had earlier warning, as it takes days to reach the village by land through the single pass connecting them to the mainlands of the North.