With Shield and Ink and Bone by Casey L. Bond


            With SHIELD


            The greatest mistake of Fenris Wolf’s life was leaving me alive, even if only barely. Even if he expected me to give up. Even if he thought I was no warrior, that I was weak, and that I wouldn’t beg to the gods or to any entity who would listen to save me and help me avenge what he had destroyed.

            From pure hatred and spite, from the ashes left in the wake of his cruelty, and from the flesh and bones of my loved ones, my destiny was spun… and his fate, sealed.

                     The Ur∂r Clan, Amrok Village


            On the eve of what should have been one of the most vital days in our lives, Hodor dreamt of our destruction.

            My older brother looked pale and haggard as he stood bewildered in the beams of sunlight pouring in through the door. He shrugged on the same tunic he’d worn for the past few days despite the grime it bore and raked nervous fingers through his golden hair before hastily tying it back at his nape. He strode toward the basin where he gathered water in his palms, burying his face in it and harshly scrubbing his skin before gripping the edges of the carved ash bowl so tightly, his knuckles turned white. Hodor stared into the water for a long, long moment.

            I wondered if he saw anything beyond his own reflection or if his dream kept spinning through his mind so that it was all he could see.

            Sometimes, dreams were just remnants of things that had happened throughout the course of the day, things our minds tried to knit together to make sense of while we slept. Other times, they were warnings sent by the gods.

            It was during moments like this that I longed for privacy, for me and for my brother. But the longhouse was built for our needs, not our wants.

            I tugged a pale brown apron-dress over my head to cover my serkr underdress, slipped on my shoes, and quickly worked my hair into a long braid, keeping one eye on Hodor, who still acted shaken. He’d let go of the basin and stood in the doorway again, raking damp, nervous hands through his hair. His muscles were so taut, I thought one would snap.

            Or perhaps he would.

            From the other side of the house, Father combed his beard and barked at us to hurry and let the animals out of their pens and into the pasture to graze.

            While Mother gathered the ingredients to make porridge, she yelled for the younger children to wake up. Though they lamented leaving their beds, they dragged themselves out of them and slogged to the table, their pale hair knotted and twisted in every direction. I smiled at them as Hodor waved me outside.

            The near mountain was draped in fog, but only to the frost line, where the trees and air became thin.

            “What happened in your dream?” I asked as we walked into the chill of the crisp, cold morning air gliding off the mountain and into the valley in which we lived. Winds in this place either came from the snow caps or the fjord, and they often collided and clashed like the blades of two enemies as fresh air met the salty brine of the sea.

            Father trailed after us, his steps as heavy and loud as he.

            Despite the fact that Father could hear him, he answered my question. “I dreamed I found Tor dead on the near mountain,” he said, jutting his jaw toward the slope our feet had long cut paths upon. Tor was his beloved dog, his friend and companion.

            Now that he’d mentioned him, I wondered where Tor was this morning. He wasn’t in the fields or lying near the garden gate like he usually was, and Hodor hadn’t let him outside when he woke. He hadn’t come in to lay between us last evening, despite the chill.