[SOW] Chapter Four, Part Four: From Nails to Freedom

Chapter Four, Part Three: [SOW] Chapter Four, Part Three: Shattering the Ice

Emry followed at the heel of her captors through the halls of the prison. Calamity erupted around her at every turn of the heel as freed prisoners met the blades of guards and in turn, they crashed stones and split lumber into the guards.

She didn’t speak, there wasn’t time. Jundal and the quiet woman led her out of the Nail Ward and into Row Five. Her savior, who she estimated to be the same woman who delivered the knife to her, strode through the churning sea of guards and prisoners with little care for her own safety.

It was not as if she needed to care as the woman shoved the sparring bodies out of her path. Tossing them aside with ease as she led them both to a small cell where it was evident she’d entered judging by the massive hole eroded in the side of the wall, and standing water sloshing across the floor.

“Go. I’ll cover your exit.”

Jundal wrapped his arm around her and led Emry out of the prison as the woman turned her back to them and faced a smattering of guards who tried in vain to stop her. 

As she hoisted herself over the edge of the crumbling wall and out into the bitter night air, the guards screamed in agony behind her.

“What is she?” Emry asked, not expecting an answer.

“She is one who was torn from her home and has not yet found a new place to call her own.” Jundal replied, surprising her.

The man, covered head to toe in tree bark, didn’t seem bothered by the winter air. He strode down a shallow incline leading away from the prison complex toward a guard wall, which sported a similarly wet hole in the side. 

“We will talk more soon.” The man whispered to her. “For now, keep your wits about you. Do not stop for anyone until I do.”

She nodded, with no small amount of uncertainty, and he stepped through the wall.

She followed him into the city which she’d only previously seen before from atop Balshenai’s back. Months before it was alive with dancing and music. Fires lit the sparse torches and people sang in the streets. This night was not the same. 

On the other side of the prison wall the streets were empty, save for the sparse body whose curiosity couldn’t be tamed. Scattered in the streets, mostly within the safety of their own home, people looked on through their windows at the sight of her and the large man made of wood strolling through the darkness. Behind her, the woman who saved her continued to fight.

“Will she be alright?” Emry asked, glancing around to see if anyone was there to listen.

“Later.” Jundal replied, a calm slowness to his voice.

She nodded and followed the man as they wound their way through the streets.

The city was unlike anything she’d ever seen before. Even from atop the back of a dragon it was nearly whimsical. The way the buildings were crammed together with little space for privacy. Lined up like fence posts they all sported similar shapes and sizes. Rows upon rows of them lined the street in a manner which struck her uncomfortably. 

With so many buildings packed together, how did one find time for privacy? She took note of the curtains which blocked windows from peering into one another, but her mind ran away with the possibility of someone the next house over accidentally seeing into her own house, had she lived there.

Aside from the cramped rows of housing, something else gnawed at her. Through the end of the long street which led to the wall of Icehold they passed a large patch of grass with a few trees, and flowers planted in patches. A stone structure stood in the center of the outcropping of trees, a figure of a large griffon vomitting water.

How ugly the statue itself was against the backdrop of trees and more rows of houses only distracted her for a moment from the way it was so out of place in the middle of the city. Around it in all directions there were hundreds of trees, and many times more flowers and plants which grew freely. She eyed the statue and wondered to herself what the purpose of the tiny forest within the city walls served when there was forest on all sides.

Jundal looped a long, rough finger through the crook of her arm and tugged on her to follow him down a side street as trumpets blared in the night. 

“They will be looking for us, little root.” Jundal put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you hurt?”

She shook her head, glancing around the dark alley, searching for signs of the woman.

“Is she going to be alright?” Emry asked, concerned far les with their escape than she was with the woman who chose to remain at the prison.

“I trust she will be just fine.”

A pair of guards charged past the alley, not bothering to glance down it as Jundal stepped in front of her.

“It would be wise of us to continue.” He pushed her gently, urging her toward the opposite end of the alley.

She obeyed, crouching quietly through the trash laden street until she reached the opposite opening, which spilled out to a large market district. Slotted stalls had been covered with blankets to keep the frost off over the night, and the large ring of braziers in the center smoldered against the cold.

“This way.” Jundal gestured, taking the lead once more.

They moved through the market square of the city, the stench of rotten fruit flickered against her nostrils as they ducked beneath stalls and moved towards their destination.

Emry gripped the knife in her hand. Unable to trust her vision in the darkness, she searched with her hearing. Listening for the sound of footsteps or voices intermingled with the cacophony of trumpet blasts and shouting in the distance. Wherever the guards were, they were not searching in the right place.

Jundal led her out of the market and onto another cobblestone path lined with houses, most of which were dim, though from the occasional lantern-lit stoop the shadows of worried onlookers hovered behind their curtains.

Jundal did not waste a moment as he twisted and turned, through more alleys and offshoot roads, behind houses and large stone buildings still covered with decorations from the celebration months prior. The heavy drifts of snow piled at the edges of the homes did little to conceal their path, and as Jundal wound them back to a street she recognized, she realized what he was doing.

The guards would have followed their tracks had they moved straight for their destination. He was trying to throw them off.

After some time of wandering through the same confusing streets and back again, Jundal was satisfied. He gestured for her to follow and led her through a final series of alleys, careful to keep their tracks away from the main roads as they came upon a small, tattered living quarters.

A few houses surrounding in hobbled together scrap wood which barely passed for a fence, held together by torn scraps of cloth and twine, concealed a ring of tents a leaning wooden huts haphazardly thrown together. The center of the living area was little more than a pool of mud thanks to the heavy snowfall. For the amount of tents and huts which filled the cramped space, barely larger than the market square, it was desolate.

Only a handful of people were scattered among the ramshackle houses, most of whom bundled in heaps of molding blankets and coats.

“We are here.” Jundal softly said as a couple of the people shot up.

“Where is Sekhenna?” A handsome, muscular man asked.

From the gate, the crunch of footsteps emerged as the woman who freed her stepped from the wintry darkness.

“I’m right here.”

The woman, Sekhenna, stumbled into the walled neighborhood and fell to her knees, har arm soaked in blood from a wound on her shoulder.

Jundal ran to her side, dropping to his knees as he met her. He gently lifted her as she crumbled to the snow. Her companion hefted her and carried her gently to a tent tucked in the back of the compound where he remained for a moment.

The handsome man who sought Sekhenna turned to face Emry.

“Who are you?”

She tightened her grip on the knife. “Who are you that I should tell you?”

He offered her a faint smile. “Rheysan, I’m a friend of Sekhenna’s.”

The man extended his hand and Emry tightened her grip on the knife.

“It’s good to meet you Rheysan.” She smiled back. “What is this place?”

He cocked an eyebrow. “You don’t know?”

She glanced around, assuming it was evident she didn’t know much about the city.

“Where are we? What is this place?”

Rheysan looked back, dumbfounded.

“You don’t know where you are?”

From Sekhenna’s tent, Jundal emerged. In the distance, the trumpets of Icehold rang in the night. The man with bark skin took his place beside her.

“I trust you’ve not seen much, in the woods.” He answered Rheysan’ question and placed a hand on her shoulder. The brief comfort a refreshing change of pace. The man, if she could call him that, was the closest thing to a friend she’d med since Balshenai and even she was barely a friend.

“Where are you from, child?” Rheysan asked, taking a seat on a nearby stump as some of the other people stirred in their tents.

“I’m from the valley on the other side of the mountain.” She paused, considering her next words. “I arrived on the back of a dragon.”

Rheysan’ eyes lit up. “A dragon?”

Jundal danced his attention between them as they spoke.

“Yes.” Emry staged her reply as a threat. The guards and prisoners seemed afraid of her mention of dragons. If he became fearful as well, she would know better who she was dealing with.

To her surprise, the man did not recoil.

“So you’re the Dragon Witch I’ve heard about.” He stared as he spoke, a rabid hunger in his eyes. “Did you meet Amar in there?” He nodded toward Icehold.

She shook her head. The name was unfamiliar. “If I did, I didn’t know him well.”

“Old man, full of himself, ranted about the government, most likely.”

She continued shaking her head.

“While I am glad the two of you are getting along,” Jundal interrupted. “We have far more important matters to discuss currently. It won’t be long before the guards collapse upon us and with Sekhenna in the state she is, we will not be lasting long.”

Emry glanced back toward the gate, to the road littered with tracks from their winding path away from Icehold.

“Is she going to be okay?” She found herself asking.

“She will be fine, little root.”

The massive man turned to face Rheysan with a solemn anger about him.

“As for you, Rheysan. I must speak with you independently of the rootling. Please, would you mind coming with me?”

Emry could tell it wasn’t a question as the pair of men turned their backs and stepped away from her.

Alone in the makeshift neighborhood, she found a stump and took a seat. Her body caught up to her mind with the rumble of her stomach. She knew she was hungry, she’d been hungry for months. The slop served in Icehold was barely enough to keep her alive, especially in the bitter cold of the winter. From somewhere in the city, the smell of smoking meat wafted across her nostrils. 

Her stomach roared in anticipation for the meal it hoped was made for her as she doubled over and tried to distract herself with the surroundings.

The tents which still stood around her were torn and stained, most with mud and dirt but a few near the entrance of the enclosure dripped freezing blood from the ends of their canvas flaps. 

The muddy pit near the entrance was a mess of water and blood intermingled. The still, smaller pools of which had already frozen over long before she’d arrived. 

Across from the clearing there were a pile of empty crates, worn and beaten by time and knocked off of their place, their contents spilled on the ground.

Nearby the first of the tents, Jundal wrapped his arm over Rheysan’ shoulders and spoke to him in hushed tones she couldn’t hear. Above, the sky began to shed flakes of snow, flurrying from far above her to be dragged down to the mud where she rested her feet and something she had been ignoring throbbed inside of her heart.

The growing, pulsating mix of anger and sorrow ruptured while she waited for the next step, the next direction. The face of her father smiling for the last time. The recognition that she would not get to see him another time. She considered the last time she ran the river with her brothers and the first meeting with Jokull, the great silver Dragon who died before her eyes.

Remembering them within the cold walls of Icehold was different. In there, she missed them all as if they would be there waiting when she managed to escape, as if they were working to break her free each day she was beaten and worn within the walls. Every bucket of warm water sloshed around the grime crusted floors was a figure she used to count down until the day she saw her father again, not in this life, she assumed. It would have been in another.

She remembered the excitement of her first flight with Balshenai, the crude, violent dragon who took time to show her the city for a brief span before they were shot down and she was taken, accused of something she didn’t understand. Something she didn’t have the means to begin to understand. 

Then, she remembered Balshenai. The great golden dragon who begged her to flee, the only glimmer of her old life which might still remain. It was unlikely she still lived, but there was hope. Balshenai was the only one since the beginning of this nightmare whose corpse she didn’t have the misfortune of finding, and it was enough.

Below her, a faint, withered frond of grass popped in a flash as she curled down into herself and wept. The blade of grass ignited and extinguished instantaneously, in its place a small pile of ash soaking into the wet mud from where it once grew.

A feeling flickered within, the same feeling she’d had when she stood atop Balshenai’s back and called for the city guards to leave them. Anger that grew to rage and burst into a rainfall of sorrow within.

She stared at the pile of ash, collecting herself.

“Do not cry. You have no time.”

She pulled her lashing emotions back to her chest and took a long, shivering breath. 

Jundal glanced over his shoulder to see her, the smoldering plant at her feet. 

There was so much she didn’t know, so much she didn’t understand and the only one who might have answers for her was, apparently, just a homeless man from Icehold.

While she gathered her feelings to calm them, she caught movement from her side. Without thinking she swept her knife into the cold, to be caught at the wrist.

“Easy, Emry.”

It was the woman who freed her, Sekhenna. The hand wrapped around her wrist was badly bruised, covered in thin cuts and scars from what she assumed were prior jailbreaks. Her other arm, the one which bore the strange gauntlet, was still covered in blood. Though, her wounds no longer bled. 

“Are you alright?” Sekhenna asked, kneeling in the mud, a firm grip on her wrist.

She nodded, glancing around the camps, in case she needed to run.

“I don’t blame you, for your mistrust. After all, we barely know one another.”

Sekhenna was quite a few seasons older, her thin cheeks sunken by time, or perhaps something more. Her long black hair wound into a tight braid and wrapped around her head, the bun pinned tight with a long knitting needle. She moved slowly, wincing as she sat in the mud.

“I am Sekhenna, and even if you do not trust me, I want to help you.”

“Why?” Emry fired back, the gentle look of the woman belied her true intention. It had to.

“Because, Jundal has taken a shine to you and I trust him.”

“I’ve only met him once.”

“It was enough.” Sekhenna grinned. “The old tree is an excellent judge of character. He’s rarely been wrong, and he urged me to seek you out when I found him.”

She glanced to Jundal, still embroiled in this conversation with Rheysan, shrouding the man’s body entirely behind his own.

Sekhenna released her wrist and dropped her own hands to her lap.

“Where are you from?”

Her voice was soft, a far cry from the rage she carried within the walls of Icehold. Deep bags beneath her eyes showed an exhaustion that Emry was familiar with, exactly why, she couldn’t discern.

“I lived in the forest.”

Sekhenna put a hand gently on her arm. “Do you have anyone with whom you can return to?”

She shook her head. “My only companion was… killed, I think.”

Sekhenna looked to Jundal, her eyes downcast. 

“We can’t stay here, I hope you know that. After what I’ve done, the city will be overturned to find me.”

She knew that, but where could she go besides with them?

“If you want,” Sekhenna continued. “You are welcome to travel with us. Jundal and myself will move south, to Bastrion.”

“Bastrion?” She cocked her head. She’d only known of the cities nearby, let alone learned their names. Her father had taken enough time to tell her what laid beyond the protection of the valley and where she should not go.

“It’s a city far to the south, you’ve not heard of it? It is the capital of the Hiliod Kingdom. Supposedly welcome to all, regardless of your history.”

A deep scar on her cheek flexed along with her words.

“You can come, if you’d like.”

Emry glanced back and forth between her saviors. Two people who looked so differently than she did and yet had risked their lives to free her.

“Why did you come for me?” She asked, putting off her answer to Sekhenna’s offer for a moment.

“I was asked to do so.”

A spark of hope lit within her heart.

“Balshenai?” She asked.

Sekhenna’s look of confusion confirmed the small doubt within her. 

“No, I don’t know a Balshenai. To be truthful,” Sekhenna winced, interrupting herself.

A moment passed before she continued.

“I don’t know who it was. Someone came to me in the night and requested we free you.”

“What about the old man in the cell across from me? Did they request you free him as well?”

The woman nodded to Rheysan, who finished his conversation with Jundal, a look of fear on his face.

“That was him. They were friends, in the military. Sort of.”

Emry nodded. If it wasn’t Balshenai, then who wanted her free? She knew it wouldn’t have been her father, or Jokull. There was no one else who would have asked for her.

Jundal approached slowly, quietly interrupting the two of them.

“We do not have much time, my little blossom.”

She scoffed playfully. 

Little blossom,” She joked, and dismissed him with a wave. “We will make it out. Buy us time. I won’t leave Emry.”

Jundal glanced at her, a hollow patience in his colorless eyes.

“I will watch for guards.” He left them with reservation, and moved to the gate leading out to the street where he stood with crossed arms.

“So, Emry?” The woman turned her attention back to their conversation, her hand still gently placed around her arm.

“I don’t know, I haven’t thought about getting out. Not fora. while.”

She squeezed Emry’s arm, the warmth of her touch more than a little comforting.

“I want to tell you to take the time you need, but time is unfortunately the only thing we are out of.”

Emry glanced, searching quickly for Rheysan who had disappeared into one of the tents.

“Well,” Sekhenna said quickly. “Time and money.”

Emry giggled a bit, looking over the disrepair of the tents and shacks one more time before she returned to the conversation. 

If Sekhenna wanted to kill her, or bring her harm, she would have done so already, she figured. Since she was neither dead nor imprisoned, she assumed it wouldn’t hurt to ask about the question that had been burning in her mind since the night she was separated from the golden dragon.

“Sekhenna, do you know what Westwinter is?”

Sekhenna shot a look back that made her immediately regret her choice of words. Not for fear, but foolishness.

“Emry, dear, Westwinter is the name of a region to the northwest of here, on the other side of the valley you came from. Westwinter Point, a small peninsula, which to my knowledge is uninhabited save for a bit of wildlife. Why do you ask?”

She stammered. “Well, my companion, Balshenai, told me to seek Westwinter. It was the last thing she said to me.”

“You know,” Rheysan interrupted. “Westwinter is rumored to be the meeting place for the Scalebonders, but that is just a rumor. Our troupe frequented the area but never found evidence anyone was actually there. By our best estimation, it was hearsay among the outer villages. Pikeman’s Copse nearby is a local…” He cleared his throat. “Military encampment.”

“So there is nothing?” Emry asked.

Sekhenna shook her head. “If there is something, I can not guide you to it.”

She took a deep breath and let the bitter cold air fill her lungs. 

“What about The Peaks?”

Sekhenna cocked her head. “Peaks?”

“Another friend of mine suggested I go to the Peaks.”

“There are peaks all around us, could your friend be more specific?” Rheysan interrupted.

“I don’t know, he didn’t elaborate.” 

Her heart sank. Finally free from the prison and she had no trail to follow, no lead to go on. 

“What about Klauven? Do either of you recognize that name?”

Rheysan immediately rolled his eyes.

“Recognize it? Klauven’s a rotten fool and he always has been. What do you know him for? Did he burn your home to the ground, too?”

She nodded. “He did, actually. Well, his men did.”

Sekhenna pushed herself to her feet. “The Unallegianced Huntmaster?” She scratched her head, sharing a confused look with Rheysan.

“He was the one who give the men the instruction to burn my house down. They were looking for something. Something I think they found, or didn’t I don’t know. They had a medallion that used to be my fathers, I took it but it shattered, the gem inside broke against the heat of the fire.”

Rheysan motioned for her to slow down.

“Wait, the fire? Burned your house down? A Gem? Let’s go back and take this one at a time. A group sent by Klauven attacked you? Where?”

“The woods, to the northwest. Somewhere in Sunmire Valley.” Sekhenna answered for her.

“And the men?”

“They wore fur coats, like the ones the people here wear. They had the same symbol on them that’s on your flags. They were looking for something while I was out for the evening. I was hunting and while I was gone they killed my father and brothers.”

“With what?”

Sekhenna shot him a look. “Does that matter? They’re dead regardless.”

“Arrows.” Emry answered plainly. “When I returned home I found them and burnt them to the ground. I made a promise I’d kill everyone involved, and if Balshenai is gone, there is nothing in Westwinter, and Klauven is my only lead I will begin there.”

She pushed herself from the stump and moved past her companions who exchanged confused looks. 

“Why would Klauven want anything from the middle of the woods?” Rheysan mumbled. His footsteps crunched the snow and sloshed the mud as he followed.

“Emry, did any of them mention anything? What about the medallion?”

Sekhenna slapped his chest. “Give the child room to breathe, Rheysan. She is working through it.”

Emry waved her hand. It was better to get through the hard parts. She didn’t want to spend her first day out of prison in tears over her loss. It wouldn’t get her closer to answers.

“The medallion was large, about the size of my palm. It had a red gem in the center, held there by a collection of prongs. When I was caught, this burst of fire came through me and burnt up everyone around and then the medallion shattered.”

Rheysan raised an eyebrow.

“Did it look like this?” 

He tugged a chain around his neck and pulled from the depths of his bloodstained shirt a golden medallion. The edges etched with markings she barely recognized, different than the one she’d held but similar. In the center a cerulean bone with opaque white grooves rested, wrapped with twine.

“Actually, it did.”

The man chuckled to himself and dropped the medallion back to his chest.

“How’d you come across it? You said your father had one?”

She nodded. “What is it.” It was not a question.

“The Hunters kill dragons, everyone knows that, but does everyone know why?” He looked back and forth between the women before he answered his own question.

“Because, the dragons carry a special power inside of their bodies. These little trinkets are that power coalesced into physical form.”

Emry glanced at Sekhenna, watching her face to glean whether or not he was lying. She remained stoic.

“Hunters kill the dragons and harvest their bodies for specific organs and parts which secrete a… solution of sorts, which allows them, with some extra work, to work magic. It’s why they call Scalebonders witches. Because they are, in layman’s terms.”

Emry shook her head. “Then why would my father need one of these? How would he have even gotten it?”

Rheysan shrugged. “Couldn’t tell you. Maybe he had friends on the inside. These gems go for incredible amounts of scales. Upwards of thousands for large ones. The Companies use them to power their machines, making them capable of unimaginable things. Massive churning blades to hack apart trees, mechanical nets to filter grey water and pump it back out clean. 

Sekhenna swung her armored hand behind her thigh.

“Even that.” Rheysan gestured to it, pointing out what she attempted to hide. “It’s a different practice, unlike one I’ve seen thus far, but it’s the same spirit as the Company Machines. It’s feeding off of a dragon’s energy, allowing you to do what you do.”

Emry’s mind flashed with a vision of the woman rending open her door with a torrent of water, splintering apart the sturdy wooden frame as if it were a pile of sticks in the wind.

“What I’m saying,” Rheysan continued, “Your old man had something dangerous in his possession. The only people who come across these are Hunters, or high ranking members of the nobility. Or the crown family themselves, I suppose.”

Emry shivered. The crown family?

“Why did mine break?”

He shrugged. “Best guess? The dragon bonded to it was killed. I only know what I know because of my platoon. I’ve never used mine. I don’t know nearly anything about them.”

“So you’re scared to tap into it?” Sekhenna joked.

“Wouldn’t you be?”

She lifted her armored hand. “Clearly, I’m not.”

From the gate, Jundal called. “We should make our way out quickly.”

A horn sounded in the distance.

“Emry, are you coming with us?”

Sekhenna moved to her tent and hoisted a shoulder bag from the depths. Along with it she carried a bedroll and a small knife to the stump. 

“We have a place for you.”

The reality crept across her like spiders inching toward prey. She had moments to make a decision which would alter the course of her life forever. On the other side of the camp, Jundal gathered his own belongings from the abandoned wreckage of the empty tents. The few other citizens who slept as she’d arrived had risen, preparing themselves to go.

She gripped her knife and closed her eyes. The buzz of the preparations to leave a distraction.

“Bastrion doesn’t have the Peaks.” She thought.

It didn’t matter. Balshenai was dead.

Wasn’t she?

Emry shook her head.

“I will go.” She finally spoke after a long pause. “Staying here won’t benefit me. If I don’t have Balshenai, I don’t have anything keeping me here.”

The words of the dragon echoed once more, painfully, within her.

“Seek Westwinter.”

Sekhenna glanced to Rheysan. “Are you coming as well? We need to go.”

A horn blew on the other side of the wall, up the street near the District gate. They were running out of time.

Rheysan nodded, and hefted a pack from a blood-soaked tent. A small seashell necklace hung from the strap.

“Then we will go.”

She followed the pair to Jundal who had gathered the remainder of the people, and crept from the camp quickly.

Emry shot a glance toward the sound of the blowing horn to find a group of armored soldiers marching down the street, torches and spears in hand. She kept to Sekhenna’s heel as they made their way around the hobbled together wall and away from the oncoming search party.

“Once we are out of the city limits, we need to move as quickly as we can. I want to be clear,” She whispered to Emry. “We will not be stopping if you don’t keep up.”

She nodded.

Jundal led them around the back of the walled section to a crack in the base of the city wall. A large wooden door had been removed from its frame and leaned against the wall beside piles of rubble and spoiled food. He hefted the door away to reveal a small hole dug into the stone, leading through the base of the wall and out into the forest beyond.

One by one, they made their way through until Rheysan, Jundal and Emry were the one ones who remained. She motioned for Rheysan to move and he obeyed. Close behind, she ducked into the hole and crouched through the tight, rocky tunnel to emerge on the other side of the city where she’d lost so much of her life.

A moment passed, and then another and Jundal did not follow.

“Sekhenna.” She called, waving to the woman. With a quick headcount, she filled in the empty space after Emry’s alert and knelt before the tunnel.

Emry ducked to see Jundal, face to face with a man in tarnished iron greaves. Judging by the quick footsteps back and forth, they were in a fight. Sekhenna reached in, hoisting her gauntlet nd Emry put her hand on it.

“Jundal wanted you to rest, you should do so.”

She was surprised Emry said it, and even more so when the young girl ducked into the tunnel toward Jundal.

Emry didn’t flinch as she shoved through the path and emerged on the other side, ignoring Sekhenna’s call.

She gripped the knife in her hand and met Jundal’s gaze as he spun, shoving the door toward the guard and knocking him onto his back beneath the molding sheet of wood.

“You’re back early, little sap.” Jundal gleefully spun and brought his immense elbow into the chest of another guard who’d hoped to get the jump on him.

“You might leave us behind, but I won’t leave you.”

Another guard, her age, charged the path with his sword raised and swung it clumsily down. She stepped past it and crashed her fist into the side of his head. His helmet flew to the ground and he stumbled back to his feet.

“By order of King Harama, surrender or we will be forced to kill you.”

She grinned.

“You couldn’t kill me if you tried.”

The boy swung a second time and she dodged once more, his frail arms unable to control the blade as it slammed into the mud.

“No,” A voice called from around the bend. She snapped her attention to it as Jundal hefted the boy from the mud and threw him over the wall. He slammed into the ground with a clatter of metal.

From the opposite end, a man emerged dressed in chainmail with plate covering his legs. His torso, mostly exposed beneath the chain frock carried a long leather overcoat. A long braid of blonde hair, half the length of Skehenna’s fell down his shoulder.

“He can’t kill you, but I certainly can.”

The blonde man raised a spear and locked eyes with her.

“Little Emry of the River, do you remember me?”

She did.

“Klauven,” she spat the words. “Where is your guard? I seem to recall he had a problem with his skin.”

He swung the spear and tucked it beneath his shoulder. “Ginu is preoccupied right now. I’m sorry he won’t get to be a part of this.”

“I am not.” Jundal replied, taking a step to block the Hunter’s view of Emry.

She tightened her grip on the knife.

“What happened to Balshenai?” She shouted.

Behind them, guards with large shields took position, spears lined through their makeshift wall, blocking their exit.

“Your dragon?” Klauven laughed. “I gutted her like a fish and sold her parts. Want to hold on to some of it before you go where she went?”

He reaching into his coat and fished a golden scale from one of the pockets. With a snap of his wrist he sent it flying to the mud before her.

Balshenai’s scale smacked the mud, faintly glittering against the torchlight.

“Shame, really. She was beautiful.”

Emry screamed.

She ducked beneath Jundal’s protective arm and dashed toward the hunter with knife in hand, aiming for his throat.

Thank you for reading Sisters of Westwinter, From Nails to Freedom is the conclusion of Chapter Four! With Emry freed from Icehold, she works with Sekhenna and Jundal to establish a new plan of action when they are interrupted by Klauven the Huntmaster, seeking to return the prisoners to where they belong…

See what happens in next week’s episode, kicking off Chapter Five!

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