A burning log cracked in the hearth. From across the room, Thorald glared at her as an aging woman with coppery hair was stitching a nasty gash that had parted his brow. Triskele stared back, without any emotion, as she slowly ran her hand over the grey pelt of an enormous, wolf-like hound at her feet. She had a split bottom lip, that was it. Thorald growled as the woman finished.
“Hells, mother! Took your time!”
Ysold Grár walked off to grab more ale for the family.
“Be glad I did, boy. You want a festering wound instead of a clean scar?”
Thorald kept his sullen silence, Triskele simply turned her gaze to the hound again. The animal looked up at her affectionately. It licked her hand as Ysold came back with mugs in her hands.
“I should spank you both, acting like wild dogs to one another.” She slammed two mugs down and filled them to the brim with foaming ale. Thorald's glare deepened.
“Spank your little girl over there for her behaviour, I'm the one looking out for us. Triwold looks the other way, Ysengrim is a coward, it all comes down to me. She's turning out to be a bigger problem than we -”
“Hold your tongue, boy.”
Triskele had to smile as the words growled from the corner near the hearth. There, in the dancing light of the fire, sat a giant of a Nord, with arms like carved stone and a mane of silver hair. There wasn't a single spot on his tanned skin that was not covered in either patterns of woad or the light, pink tissue of scars. His voice was low and hoarse, yet as always his words had the ability to strike like thunder.
“Triwold is a great man, Ysengrim is wise, and your sister is unlike any of you. You think she'd still sit here otherwise? You have your worth, my son, but do not anger me with your arrogance. Do that again, and you will not set foot here for a month.”
A spark in the hearth seemed to set the ice blue eyes of Thornn Grár ablaze for a single moment as he stared his youngest son down. Thorald seemed to shrink. Then he grabbed his mug and stomped up the stairs. Ysold tutted her lips and Thornn stood up, slowly, and cracked his neck as he walked to the carved doors of the house.
“With me, pup.”
Triskele got to her feet, whistling. The hound pricked up its ears.
“Come along, Fenrir.”
The animal padded after the two, into the cold of night.
Triskele stood with her arms folded as her father swung down the axe. On the chopping block, a log split in two, as if it was made of butter instead of solid, hard pine. Thornn sniffed, put the wood aside, and grabbed a new log.
“How's the lip?”
To their side, the calming sounds of the river running over gravel and cobbles was like a soothing song. Further ahead, an owl flew over, hooting softly. Triskele ruffled Fenrir's fur as he sat down at her feet.
“I hardly feel it.”
“Thorald will feel his pride for days to come.”
“You started months ago.”
Triskele furrowed her brow. Thornn swung down the axe again. Crack!
“How did I?”
“When you started trailing off, pup.”
“I don't see how I-”
“Do you know why I've built this mill?”
Thornn interrupted her and dropped the axe. With a single step he came to stand right in front of his daughter and cupped her chin in his broad, calloused hand. Triskele did not resist as he firmly raised her chin, forcing her to look at him. She defied the world, yes. But never her father.
“Why did I build this mill, Triskele?”
“To split logs.”
“Make another joke and you will rue it, pup.”
She sighed. “You built it for mother, for us.”
He let go of her chin and folded his arms, just like her. As they stood like that, under the light of the paling moon and the rose-coloured sky in the east, nothing and no one could ever doubt they were father and daughter.
“I did. After a lifetime of fear, excitement, glory, sorrow, danger, agony, bounty and loss, I knew that you can only dabble the dice with fate so many times until the gods decide you angered them one time too many. If I would not have chosen this den for our pack, you would not have been born, Triskele.”
She cast down her gaze to the cobbles below their feet. Her father was the only one who was able to make her feel humble. Thornn continued.
“Think of that, the next time you descend into some pit of hell. I'm proud of you, always have been. There's a strength in you your brothers could learn from, if they would be willing to see it. That strength allows you a certain freedom and a certain opportunity. But there's bold, and there's reckless. Would you toss my work here aside, what I have built so you could live, for a rush? You can achieve great things, my youngest. Do not die before you've had the chance.”
Triskele parted her full, pale lips as her father turned around briskly, grabbing yet another log for the chopping block.
“But I am
“No, you are playing games.”
At her feet, Fenrir looked at a hopping hare in the distance. She frowned, fidgeting with the scabbard of her dirk.
“I'm after something, father.”
“You could do better, and we both know it. Use your head, think. Consider your steps. It is a great thing to have a goal, but as long as you're toying with your journey, you'll never reach it. You're all over the place.”
Triskele looked away. She inhaled deeply, sensing and smelling her environment. The cold air filled her lungs, the fresh smell of pine and cold water awakened her, prickled her skin, and a breeze made her mop of unevenly cut, black hair dance on her shoulders. She suddenly looked at her father's broad back. The logs had his full attention again.
“I should go.”
“And where is my pup off to?”
Even though she could not see his face, she knew her father was smiling.
“Good hunting, my Tris.”
She turned around, then looked at Fenrir, who had eagerly jumped up.
“If it's all right, I'm taking him.”