Queen Katarina Radix’s castle stood atop of a large hill above the villages housed within the walls. Brynn strode with purpose, her stomach rumbled from the lack of food, her coin purse had long lost the jingle of coin, but the promised payment would quench her thirst and hunger.
If she could only get to the castle. Throngs of celebrants crowded the streets, shouting and drinking, mugs lifted overhead, sailors and soldiers grabbing any woman available for entertainment.
“Move,” Brynn roared. “Get out of my way,” she snarled. She put a hand on her battle axe and shoved bystanders out of the way with her free hand. A drunken sailor, black of hair and skin, ran his hand around her waist and pulled her close. The smell of booze seeped from his pores as he slurred, “You, thick girl, lets find some hay…”
Brynn’s lips pulled back into a snarl, and she bashed him in the head with the flat of her axe. Blood flew from the wound, and Brynn snatched the sailor to his feet. Twice she clubbed him in the wound, blood splatter landed in her face and she tossed the sailor to the side. He landed on a crate of goods. The box collapsed under his weight and the force Brynn had thrown him with. Onlookers gasped and pointed. Brynn wiped the blood from her face and it smeared from cheek to chin.
She licked her lips and glared at the throng of people. They parted as guards rode up on horseback. Banners fluttered in the wind, and the sailor moaned. The guards wore heavy armor, all wore the insignia of Queen Radix, and all were helmed save the Captain of the Guard.
“You, savage woman. I take it you’re Brynn the Bloody?”
“This is your doing?”
Brynn licked her lips and stared at the man. He stared back, not in a lascivious manner, but in a way like scholars studied the effect of the moon on tides.
“I brook no fools. He pawed me, I broke him.”
The captain nodded and said, “Queen Radix noted your return and sent us to accompany you to the castle. Join us if you will.”
Brynn took the reigns of a red horse, fifteen hands high, and swung onto its back. The captain took lead in front of the banners and led the way to the castle. At the gates, a young lass with blonde hair and a dirty face accepted the reigns from Brynn.
The child met Brynn’s eyes and nodded. Then, she walked away toward the stables. “Follow me,” the guard captain said. Brynn locked eyes with him, and he glanced away. Silently, she followed the guard through the tall wooden doors of the castle.
Brynn’s eyes took in the gigantic stone walls of the palace. The stone was seven and a half feet thick and stood forty feet high, with a circular rampart a chariot wide at the top. Cut out windows were sparse and placed in full view of the public.
Rumors circulated it had taken 25 years to build the castle and nine wars to clear the debt. Literal tons of treasure was kept within the vaults, among them gold, precious jewels, and the jeweled skull of King Tor.
“This way savage,” the guard snarled. “Keep your eyes to yourself, and pray you don’t get caught with your fingers on our treasure.”
At last, they came to the foyer of the great hall. The lilt of laughter and merriment sounded from within. A chamberlain stood next to the door and frowned at Brynn. An older man, he stood ramrod straight-like a soldier might-his hands clasped behind his back, his attire impeccable. His straight grey hair was combed back and he was clean shaven. He was dressed in black with gold stripes, tapered trousers, and black boots.
His cold eyes took in Brynn’s clothing, and he scowled. Malek’s blood had dried on her face, as well as that of the man she’d cleaved in two. Her armor, a one piece of leather designed to emphasize certain parts of her anatomy and cover the more vital parts bore blood on it as well.
“This will never do,” the chamberlain muttered. “Madam, might I suggest a bath and formal attire for your meeting with Her Majesty?”
“I’m no tavern wench, welp. Give me my coin.”
“As you say.”
He pushed the doors open and Brynn strode into the hall. A silence fell over the crowd, albeit gasps came from the throng of people. At the end of carpet sat the throne. The guards stood attentively at the door, but Brynn could feel their eyes open her. Brynn could hear their grips tighten upon their lances, and she grinned.
Brynn walked down the carpet to the throne and Queen Katarina Radix. She stopped three steps away from the queen. Katarina gazed upon the barbarian and tried not to smile. She motioned for a servant to approach. The young male carried a silver tray, a coin bag in the middle of the tray.
“Your reward for Malek,” Katarina said, taking the bag from the tray and tossing to Brynn. “My thanks for dealing with the threat. What do you plan to do next?”
Brynn locked eyes with Katarina. The guards kept their eyes upon Brynn, and again they tightened their grips and prepared to defend their queen. Katarina did not back down from the barbarian. Instead, she scoffed and said, “I only ask because I would hire you for another job, if you want it. There is a cult growing within the walls of my city. I would pay you five hundred gold to end their existence. With that kind of coin you could afford a bath and a new set of armor.”
Brynn turned and walked out. She pushed the doors of the hall open and kept walking until she reached the tavern. Loud voices carried outside its walls, two drunken sailors fell out the doors, and the lilt of fake laughter from the women inside did not cease. Brynn smiled and shouldered her way to a table.
It was time to find food and a game.