Kendra recognised the man who rode into the clearing as one of the Jarl’s young warriors. She had seen him with Magnus a few times, and knew they were friends.
The sight of him filled her with dread.
‘Heil, friend!’ shouted Magnus cheerfully, glancing back at her with an easy smile. ‘Do not worry, Torben is a good friend.’
She nodded, but his words offered little comfort. This was one of the Jarl’s men. What would he make of their bargain? He would probably be outraged by her impudence, and demand she be led by a rope to face the Jarl.
Heimdall had threatened her more than once with the wrath of the Jarl. Over the years, she had begun to wonder if they were lies to keep her obedient, but they still frightened her. She could still remember her village burning.
Torben spoke as he dismounted. ‘I am glad to see you are well, Magnus. Your parents became worried when you did not return. They feared you were sick…’ Torben’s eyes swept over Magnus’s naked and freshly bandaged torso. Then he looked at Kendra with barely concealed amusement. He thought they were lovers.
It was better than the truth—that she had stolen property from the Jarl’s son and forced him to work for her.
Heavens! What had she done?
She had acted without thought to consequence, and once again, fate would punish her for it. She took a step back, fear making her voice high and tight as she called out, ‘I will get your things, Master!’
Magnus turned towards her, his voice firm. ‘No.’
Her body stilled as if she were a hare caught in a snare, unsure of whether to struggle or not.
Torben frowned at the exchange, and then he seemed to notice Magnus’s bare arm. ‘Your wound is looking a little better. But where is your arm ring?’
Her heart leapt into her throat.
‘Kendra had to take it off… My wound had festered, causing my arm to swell. I might be dead if it wasn’t for her,’ Magnus replied cheerfully, rolling his shoulder. Torben didn’t seem to notice that it was the wrong arm. ‘I think I will stay here for a while, until it is properly healed. Tell my parents not to worry. Kendra is caring for me, and in return, I have offered to help repair her house.’
Magnus had protected her with yet another lie.
Why would he do such a thing?
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