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War-Journal of Bue Geirsteinson - Part XIV

by Jacob Skytte

Vatermont 26th, the year 1000 After Crowning of the First Emperor of the Thyatian Empire

Following the trail left by the remainder of my family, my mother and two brothers, and their small force of loyal followers, I could not banish Asta from my mind. Her pale face, the soft touch of her lips. I grew angry, hateful, then despaired at her fate. I prayed to Odin that He spare her from death, I made promises that I keep in my heart and will not commit to writing, promises of what I would do if only He would let her live.

My force of men was reduced to some 50 warriors, among them Ingibjorg Siglindesdottir, who had chosen to leave her dying friend, still bitter or afraid of the magic she had witnessed. In a way, I understood. Sorcery is seen as foul and evil, an instrument of those who follow Loki the Trickster. That Asta would wield sorcery serves to taint her, it is true. But to those who know her, as Ingibjorg must and as I feel that I have come to, there can be no doubt that she is not evil, that she does not serve the Trickster. That she would wield this magic in my defence only speaks of her willingness to sacrifice all to protect others, it is nobility, not deceit. But try as I might to justify her actions for myself, I knew that others would never see things the same way. I had just hoped that Ingibjorg, her friend, would.

There was silence among the men. They sensed my mood and it rubbed off on them. I knew that I should cheer them up, that I should serve as inspiration, but right now I just couldn't bring myself to think of anything besides Asta. Eventually a man approached my, begging my attention.

"My lord Geirsteinson," he started. "We are crossing into Vithesford. Our presence here might be seen as hostile by Clan Vithesford. Should we continue?"

I thought about it. Vithesford was where Jarl Ragnar Solmundson ruled, the jarl my sister Oda had been betrothed to. I began to realise why my family was fleeing in this direction; they hoped that the jarl would protect them, now that they would be related. But his great hall lay far beyond the mountains, and chances were that he would be there, not in this isolated part of the domain. Still, I would be taking a chance by bringing an armed force into Vithesford whether its jarl was here or not. I would just have to hope that the fact that I was working on King Hord's behalf would justify my presence.

"We press on," I replied. The man nodded and signalled the advance. Ingibjorg closed the distance between us, striding alongside me.

"Bue," she said softly. "I hope you do not hold it against me that I couldn't stay in Asta's presence. I know she is my sister of the shield, but what she did..."

My voice was colder than I wanted it to be, but I felt strongly about this. "She was your friend, and you abandoned her to die. What would you have me think of you?"

She visibly cringed. "I...hold you in high regard. I'm sorry for not living up to your expectations."

Her words only served to build my anger. "You're sorry for not measuring up to what you perceive me to be, yet you're not sorry for your friend? What would you have me think of you?"

Ingibjorg seemed to shrink under my words. "I just... It's just that... I'm sorry, Bue. I'm really sorry."

"Tell that to Asta," I replied, closing the matter between us in a way that I knew was spiteful and would hurt her, yet was the only way I could do it right now. Ingibjorg dropped back among the men, her head hung low. I regretted having spoken so harshly to her, but she had acted as less than a friend to Asta, and I could not readily forgive it.

I brooded for the rest of the day and long into the night, as I now pen my thoughts. This has been a day of heavy thoughts and of anger. Wrath over the unfairness of life, fear for the life of a woman I have grown to care deeply for, the pain of seeing friendship betrayed and a deep sense of foreboding that I can't seem to shake.