Uttuma

The trading horn sounds loud from the docks below.  Astryyd turns from her task, brushes off her apron and pulls her back to the nape of her neck.  Throwing the furs about her shoulders she opens her door and steps out.  A blast of chill air rushes past her and she pulls the furs tighter about her.  The docks were not far so she decided to see what the traders had and wanted before lugging a barrel of mead to the docks.   Upon arriving at the docks, she sees a long ship loaded with a bosk and cages of vulos and stacks of grains and fruits from the south.  Two men stripped to the waste were hauling goods from the ship to the dock while a large merchant spoke with one of the village Jarls.  Astyyd stood back under the shelter and poured a horn of mead for herself from the mead barrel.  Smiling, she realized one of the bonds had placed a barrel of the Pumpkin Spiced mead at the docks.  Smart girl.  Keeping her eyes on the merchant, remembering her last incident on the docks, she absently reached down to confirm the dagger was still strapped to her thigh.  It was a reassurance though she sensed no threat from this merchant.

She noticed the man make a gesture in her direction and the Jarl turned and smiled at Astryyd extending an arm beckoning her over to the conversation.  She stepped boldly to the men and smiled, “Tal Jarl, Sir.” nodding from one to the other.

“Tal Lady”, the merchant swept into a low bow taking her hand and kissing it.  A strange custom for sure but she simply smiled as the village Jarl introduced her as the mead maker and begin to praise the Pumpkin Spice mead that the village had grown to love.

The merchants eyes grew wide and smile spread across his face.  “Pumpkin Spice mead, eh?  I must be sampling this mead.”

“Have you a horn, Sir?” she asked.  He turned and in a booming voice yelled to the men on the boat.  “Uttuma, fetch me horn!”  turning back to Astryyd.  “Where can me boy fill a horn?”

“The cask by the hearth, Sir.”  she watched as the man approached from the ship with a horn.  He was clean and shaved except for a small tuft of hair about his chin.  He lowered his head as he passedto go fill the horn with Pumpkin Spiced mead.  Bringing it back to the merchant, she watched as he placed it to his lips and took a long swallow.  His eyes lit up and Astryyd beamed with pride internally.  Her fathers recipes had so far paid off for her.

“Lady, this is a delicacy!  I simply must have some.  Name your price…….better yet, I will trade you…..”, he looked around to the ship and the men working there, “I will trade you Uttuma for two large barrels.”  He looked at Astryyd expectantly.

Astryyd was stunned by the offer…..a thrall?  Really?  She had never even considered the idea of owning slaves herself.  What in the world would she do with a thrall?  The village Jarl spoke up,  “Ah, a thrall would be a wonderful gift for you Lady Astryyd.  A strong back and weak mind is just what you need.  He will make a nice bosk for you.” he chuckled.  “Come here, boy, lets have a look at you.”  The thrall named Uttuma stepped forward and Jarl inspected him as one would a bosk, checking muscles and teeth.  Astryyd stood still stunned by the offer.  “What say you Astryyd?  He meets with my approval.” the Jarl laughed again.

“I…..uh….suppose…I,”

“Good, good!!” the merchant snapped.  “Let’s get that mead onboard.  Uttuma, go with your new mistress and retrieve two barrels of that fine Pumpkin mead!”  he turned and set about his business.

The thrall came and stood in front of Astryyd head hung low.  “If  mistress will show me the way…”

Astryyd stared dumbfounded for a moment then looked over the thralls shoulder at the Jarl who still had a smug grin on his face.  She shot him a brief scowl and turned back to the thrall, “This way, boy” and she headed back to the brewery.  The entire walk she had no idea what to say.  She had never owned anyone before.  Where would she house the man?  She sighed and stopped mid stride and turned to him.

“You are called Uttuma?”  she asked.  She saw him looking around the village with wonder.  It was a beautiful place.

“Yes Mistress”, he said dropping his gaze again.

Astryyd sighed and relaxed a bit.  “I am Astryyd, Uttuma.  It is nice to meet you.”  The thrall looked like someone had smacked him stunned.  There was an uncomfortable moment before Astryyd turned and continued to the brewery.  They retrieved the barrels and she was quite impressed with the strength of this thrall.  He carried one barrel on his back with straps and the other he carried in his arms.  She thought maybe this would not be such a bad thing.  They returned to the dock and delivered the barrels to the merchant.

“Ah, Lady, you will not be sorry with this trade.  Uttuma is a strong back and keeps his tongue…..most of the time.  Be sure to beat him regularly to keep him in his place.  You will want him collared though.  Do that soon.” the merchant chided and Astryyd saw a look on the thralls face that gave away the fact that the merchant must have beat him often.

She straightened her shoulders and stiffened her jaw,  “I am sure he will do as I bid quite well, Jarl.  Thank you for the trade.”  turning she looked at the thrall, “Come, boy.  Let’s get you collared and settled.”  She left the dock with the thrall in tow.

Within in the evening, the man had been collared by the new blacksmith and a pallet of furs had been placed in the brewery.  As she went about her normal chore of the evening, Uttuma followed her asking what he could do to please his mistress.  She sent him on several errands including retrieving empty barrels from the longhall.  He went about every task she gave him obediently and quickly.  Once she had him settled in for the night, she went about making a list of chores for the thrall.  Maybe having him around would be beneficial after all.

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Bees……

Astryyd : “Tal Bond”
Bracie: “Greetings Mistress did you see those bees?” laughed
Astryyd : “Yes girl, that is where we get the honey for our mead.  Did you get stung?”
Bracie: laughs, “well not going to get any right now they are a little ma.  I don’t know yet my bum is frozen.”
Astryyd: “You must have a smoke canister to smoke them out first, girl.  You can find one just outside of the Brewery hanging on the wall just left of the door.”
BEES
Bracie:  “Oh okay will have to find that place.”
Astryyd:  Points down the hill, “The Brewery is down there over the bridge, girl, before you get to the docks.”
Bracie:  “Ooo okay Mistress, thank you.  Will go now to pick up a canister.”
Astryyd:  “Safe paths girl”

The Stranger….

Astryyd stands on the back porch looking out over the snow covered landscape.  A shiver runs up her back and she pulls her fur snugly around her, a warm horn of mead in her other hand.


She thinks about the collaring and branding that she witnesses the night before and a shiver of a different kind runs through her.  She had never really liked the branding and collaring but she understood the need for it.  The bonds were prized possessions for the Jarls.  She would need to remember to inquire as to Cinnamons condition today.  Her mind drifted to Jarl Wolf and how he was with Cinnamon.  Tender and kind not harsh.  She smiled.  She was happy to have found Jarl Wolf and Vahalla Cliffs. She looked forward to time spent with the Jarl.  ‘At least he was fond of her mead”, she thought smiling.   Then her mind seamlessly drifted to Jarl Ran…..and it surprised her.  She had been so enthralled by the ceremony that she did not until now really pause to think on the handsome stranger.  Stranger still how vividly his form came to her mind, bare chested and tattooed, sweat beading on his skin as he worked the forge.  He, too, was gentle with the bond.  His face as he warned her not to flinch was more for concern for her.  She caught herself smiling despite herself.  She hoped he would decide to stay in Vahalla Cliffs for sometime.  Yes, Astryyd, was going to be happy here.  For the first time in a long time she felt safe.

Incident on the Docks

The bell rang a resounding clang through the village.  Not sure if this was a warning or a calling, Astryyd stuck her head from the door of the brewery to see Lady Cohanna bounding towards the dock.  ‘Ah, traders’, she thought to herself.  Might as well go greet them as well.  They could have something she needed.  She quickly wiped her hands on the underside of her apron smock and straightened her tresses.  Grabbing a horn from the shelf, she filled it with some mead and slipped from the brewery, closing the door behind her.
She was walking down the path towards the dock when she heard the Lady’s voice, loud and angry.  The village physician, a women of smaller build, darted past her prompting Astryyd to break into a run toward the dock.
When she arrived, she saw the large and rough looking  man, his face screwed into a scowl covered head to toe in furs.  “Get me some Paga, Hells” he shouted at Lady Cohanna.  He was intimidating to say the least but not nearly as much as Lady Cohanna whose face shone with contempt for this man.  “I am the Jarl of this land’s women, not some common bond and you will not treat me as such in my land.”
The man seemed oblivious to anyone around him other to question where we had all come from.  His demands for paga continued.  Astryyd could tell this man needed not paga or any other drink but trying to sooth the situation, she offered, “Here sir, take some mead and let us speak rationally.”  He snatched the horn from her hands roughly causing her to take a step back.
Astryyd heard the voice of the Jarl as he stepped from the returning boat.  “Tal Friend, what seems to be the problem.” his voice was calm and steady.
The man ignored the Jarl and continued to drink and insult Lady Cohanna.  The Jarl stepped in and spoke in a low growl.  “You will respect the free and the bonds of my village or you will leave, sir.”  The man had obviously taken offense at being asked to leave the village docks.
In one movement too quick for Astryyd to react to, the man drew a sword and butt stroked Astryyd in rapid succession, her body dropping limp on the dock.  She vaguely heard the Lady rally the others to her before she lost consciousness.
The feel of warm hands on her cold face brought her back to consciousness.  Blinking her eyes open she saw the physician and the Jarl standing over her.  Her head screamed as she tried to move into a sitting position and she wavered a bit but was steadied by multiple sets of hands.  “Lady Astryyd, are you ok?” the physician spoke low and clear.  Astryyd nodded as she could not form the words.
She heard the Jarl in a firm voice speak to Lady Cohanna.  “Come here women.”  Through blurry vision, she saw the Lady move to her Jarl and he wrapped her in an embrace.  “Where is your dagger, women?”  She could not hear the lady’s response as her face was buried in the man’s chest.  Then he spoke up louder, “I want every free women in the is village to carry a dagger.  We are northern born and by the gods we will act as such.”  He released the Lady and turned to Astryyd who was still waivering but standing none the less.  “Do you have a knife?”
“Yes, Jarl but I fear I know little of how to use it beyond butchering Vulo.”
“Then we will teach you.” speaking louder again for all to hear. “We will teach all.  I will not have the women of this village falling prey to raiders and Kurs.”
Bowing her head slightly, ignoring the thumping in her skull.  “Yes, Jarl”
“Come, let us get you back to the brewery.”  The Jarl escorted Astryyd home making sure her footing was sure and steady.  Once there, he took one look around and smiled at the place seemingly pleased with what he saw there.  With one last inquiry to her well being, he then took his leave.
Astryyd flopped down on the skin cushions at one the tables and allowed the tears to quietly roll down her cheeks.

Arrival…..

Stepping from the swaying deck of the boat onto the land once again, Astryyd surveys the village before her.  By the gods it felt good to be on dry land again!  The river on which she just spent several days wound through the gorge at the base of this small but quaint village.  The dock at the base of the village housed a small gathering area for travelers to be entertained with drink, bondsmaids  or whatever they wish.   Just to the left of the boat was a large bell for traders to summon the village folk to the docks for trade.  The smell of fresh mountain air reminds Astryyd of the home she had lost.  As the others begin moving about her, she gathers her belongings and makes her way up the path into the village.  It is a fairly quiet place this early in the day.  She notes the small homes that she passes, her gaze pausing on a sign above one of the houses……the Brewery.  She sighs a little.  If this town already has a brewer, she will need to continue her travels further into the mountains.  If nothing else, she should be able to trade some of her Pumpkin Spice mead to this brewer for some needed supplies.  She winds around the pathways that lead her to the farm section of the village.  She smiles as she sees a young women fighting to milk a particularly stubborn Bosk.  As she passes the huge gate for the village proper, she notes the exquisite workmanship.  The gates lead onto a stone bridge over a gorge with one of the most beautiful waterfalls she had seen since leaving home.

Astryyd pauses taken by the beauty, feeling the spray lightly mist her skin and cool air blow her blond curls gently about her face.  There would be time a plenty for this place if her plans worked the way she wished.

Following the path around past a few more small houses, she comes to a pallisade manned by warriors who step in and block her path.  She sets the pack she carried onto the packed snow and steps forward.

“I am Astryyd Dalgaard.  I seek audience with the Jarl.”  One of the men whispers something to a thrall standing close by who runs up the path and out of site.  Not too long after, another warrior appears at the gate and steps toward Astryyd.  She knew that she was taking a bold chance coming unknown to this city and without escort but she had little choice and so she held her breath as the warrior eyed her with suspicion.  After a few moments, he speaks, “Tal lady, I am Julian.  Jarl Wolf and Lady Cohanna bid me welcome you to Vanjinck and escort you to the hall.”  He steps forward and extends an arm in a gesture leading her past the gates and the guards.  Astryyd breaths once again and gathers her pack, following him up the path speaking as strongly as she can muster, “Tal Jarl Julian. Your escort is welcome.”   Jarl Julian speaks of the village and questions her on what brings her to their small village.   She notes the strong stature of the man as they walk, the weapons he carried and the manner in which he give her his attention when she speaks. They continue to speak until they come to the longhall where she is lead in and introduced to the Jarl and his women.

It seems the Jarl and Julian had been raiding into the night as the Jarl’s women was tending to an arrow sticking from the Jarl’s chest. Astryyd sits at a table and takes the mead that the bond offers her.  She sips on the warm drink as she watches the Lady pluck the arrow from the mans shoulder.  Taking another sip of the mead, she allows herself to assess the quality of the drink.  It is not bad though not as good as hers.  As a howl issues from the Jarl, she winces.  The Lady verbal provokes the Jarl in playful tones though the severity of the situation showed on her face.   With a few explicitives from the Jarl on his Lady’s desire to see him maimed or dead, he swills back the mead in huge gulps then breathing a sigh of relief once the offending arrow was gone.  After a few moments, they both turn their attention to Astryyd questioning her motives for coming to Vanjinck.  She tells them that it is her hopes to open a Brewery in their town providing them with the finest Northern meads and ales in all of Torvaldsland.  Lady Cohanna tells Astryyd that the Brewery is indeed available and the Jarl welcomes her to stay and make her home in the village if it is her wish.

With a bounce in her step and a smile on her face, she is led to back to the Brewery……to her new home in Vahalla Cliffs.

Endings…….

Astryyd Dalgaard stared into the densely falling snow at what was once the village of her childhood.  Nestled high in the Hrimgar Mountains, little trouble had ever come to the community.  They were a farming community with little to interest raiders from the south.  That was until a group of young men decided the time had come for them to prove their manhood and went south to raid a larger village.  They were somewhat successful and managed to return home with some slaves that they paraded about the village like strutting cocks.  Astryyd knew that it would bring trouble but she did not realize just how much trouble or when it would come.  She left out of the village that morning to collect some herbs for the meads she was hoping to brew and present to her Jarl.  She did not expect to return to find this.  Her eyes swept the village smoke and snow stinging her eyes….or was it tears.  Huts and buildings still smoldered from the fire the raiders had set.  They were very thorough.  Not a soul was left in the village.  They were either killed or taken.  Not a building or hut or chicken coop was left standing.  Astryyd tightly grasped her knife in her hand, scanning the scene for any movement.  She slowly moved through the ruins making note of the dead men lying in the streets.  She systematically entered first one ruined hut then another taking care to avoid the smoldering remains.  She eventually reached her own dwelling that she shared with her father.  The smell of burnt human flesh assaulted her nostrils and she stifled a choking cough.  She found her father slain and burned as she suspected she would and knelt beside him and let the tears quietly roll down her cheek.

“Rest well in Valhalla, father”, she whispered.  She rose and gathered what she could that might have been of some use to her and left her home and village not looking back.

Astryyd’s father had been a very skilled mead maker and having had no sons, she was taught the skill.  She would take this knowledge and head south to some of the larger villages.  Certainly one of them would have need of her skills.