Chapter 17 pt.2

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The company in the kitchen roared in laughter as Soryn walked through the door, a slight frown on his face. Valkyrie noticed, though she said nothing. Arna looked up at Lord Maslyn and smiled.

“Come sit, Soryn.” Arna patted the seat next to her.

He acquiesced and sat without saying anything. Soryn felt guilty for being so pensive, but he was worried about Stigg and worried about the entire situation with their apparent rivalry for Arna’s love. A half smile came to his lips, for her sake, and he looked at her with as much happiness as he could manage. He was happy that they were together, but he had come to care much more for Stigg than he had previously thought. It was as though he was betraying a brother. Soryn supposed Stigg was far more of a brother to him than Olan or Fenris had ever been.

“Father Kimbli was telling me how much you’ve done to improve the economy in the village,” Arna encouraged.

Soryn shot Kimbli an irritated glance. The priest lifted his hands in surrender.

“Soryn, you’re far too modest about your accomplishments,” the old man admonished.

Lord Maslyn rolled his eyes.

Everyone laughed at that.

“You’ve changed, Bialas. You’re very business-like, now,” Arna observed with some amusement.

“He’s become a very shrewd leader, indeed. Governor Frey has had to back down at Soryn’s desk many a time. The boy is just as great as his father before him. Perhaps greater,” Kimbli beamed.

Soryn cleared his throat, a slight blush rising to his cheeks. He desperately wanted the conversation to turn away from himself.

“Is Stigg up yet?” Valkyrie asked, sensing the young man’s discomfort.

“No, he’s still feeling ill, I think.”

“Odd,” Father Kimbli opined.

“He must have caught something rather nasty,” Fanndis blurted out. It was not entirely untrue, she assessed.

“Hopefully he’ll return to good health soon,” the priest said, concerned.

An awkward silence followed. They were rescued from it when Derik scratched at the door, whining to get in. Valkyrie let the now-grown wolf into the kitchen. Fanndis felt it was a good thing Ulf’s wolves were such clean creatures. Otherwise, she would have bristled at the presence of so many animals in her kitchen throughout each week. Derik had aged into a large, intimidating beast. He had the dark fur of Nora and some patches of white like his father Ulf. Wholly magnificent to gaze upon, Arna gasped—not realizing it was the same pup she had held and cooed over so long ago.

Hello, Arna, Derik greeted.

“Hello there,” Arna said, still failing to make the connection with the past.

You don’t remember me, do you? He chuckled.

“Well, no, not really,” she admitted.

It’s me, Derik. Ulf’s pup.

“Derik! You’ve grown up!” Arna exclaimed.

Yeah, I suppose. Still not as tall as my old man, though. I’ve got a ways to go before I’m as formidable as he is, Derik mused.

“I think you’re entirely as formidable as your father,” Valkyrie encouraged, knowing the adolescent wolf was fishing for complements.

You’re very kind, Valkyrie.

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