Wîflic wiped blood off her face and dropped her axe on the grass. The girl crouched over her kill and wedged a copper coin between his teeth.
“You died for this. There are better things to die for,” she whispered, her blue eyes misting.
Wîflic picked up her weapon, wiped it clean on the corpse’s jerkin and secured it to her belt. She re-tied her dark hair, pulled on her hood and surveyed the area for onlookers before disappearing into the woods.
“M¯ære Un¯æmta, S¯æd. I liked the thing with the coin,” a voice praised from the shadows.
“No criticisms, Cennestre?” quizzed Wîflic.
A lithe, sinewy shape lowered itself to the ground, from a tall beech tree, with one elongated arm. Black hair hung over its face like a shroud and its spindly fingers ended in claws. It spoke in a voice reminiscent of dry leaves underfoot.
“You hesitate before making a kill. Regret is a festering wound,” hissed Cennestre.
“I’m eleven summers old,” Wîflic countered.
“Your tender years are a lazy excuse. You are a born killer. Êstig Morðorslaga”
“Guess it runs in the family,” Wîflic replied grimly, caressing the intricate carvings on the haft of her axe.
“You have blooded your blade, to my satisfaction. I believe you are ready for what comes next. Do you feel it in your heart?”
“It’s all I can feel.”
“It is a great honor, yes?”
“You bear witness. I’ll make you proud.”
“Watchmen will come from Smalewic soon. Time to go,” instructed the creature.
He looked about nineteen summers old, with ginger hair and a smattering of freckles on his thin face. The young man carried a worn bow and his quiver was only about a quarter full. He looked friendly enough as he approached, through the trees.
“You on a quest of some sort?” Wîflic asked the lad, trying to appear innocuous.
“Not there yet. I’m to learn how to survive the Mircewud first. My Master is insistent on it.”
“I’m Wîflic,” she added before she could stop herself, quickly glancing up at Cennestre, perched on a branch like a crow.
“Begging your pardon. I’m Tîber. Your father’s a smith, used to run a forge in Smalewic?”
“Used to. Times are tough.”
“Sorry. Everyone tells me I have shit for brains. Forgive me,” Tîber supplicated.
Tîber happened to look up, locking eyes with Cennestre. In one fluid movement, he drew an arrow, nocked it and was about to let loose. He fell to his knees, staring at Wîflic, her arm still outstretched after releasing the axe. Cennestre flopped down to the young man’s side, pulled an arrow from his spilled quiver and broke it in two. She placed the pieces on Tîber’s chest before scampering over to Wîflic, like a faithful pet.
“That was a shame,” lamented Wîflic.
“Agreed,” Cennestre mewled, bowing her head.
“Then let’s push on and be done with it.”
Smoke curled lazily from the chimney and the front door was ajar. Wîflic scampered over to the woodpile and Cennestre made herself scarce. Sweostor was definitely home. Wîflic hurled a stone at the doorframe and heavy footsteps signaled a reaction. Wîflic ran along the side of the house to the rear, stopping dead in her tracks in front of a large, steel monument. It was a blackbird with outstretched wings. It stood before a fresh grave, the grave that belonged to her mother.
The hefty man lumbered up behind Wîflic and she spun around, her weapon at the ready.
“You? Why do you have my axe?” slurred the man.
“Still stinking drunk, I see? It only makes this easier.”
“Are you the one who desecrated my wife’s grave?” demanded the drunken man.
Wîflic cautiously looked back at the disturbed grave soil and Cennestre dropped out of the darkness, landing on the metal crow with the agility of a cat. The creature parted its long black hair to reveal a severely disfigured face. There was the distinct absence of a nose and only one, bulging blue eye. Her jaw lolled about and her tongue hung out of her mouth like a hangman’s noose.
“Sweostor!” growled Cennestre.
The man screamed and fell backward, scrambling to get away. Cennestre nodded at Wîflic and the girl leaped at the cowering drunkard.
“Payment is due, Father!” she cried, raising the axe aloft.
Seeing the fear in her victim’s eyes, Wîflic gave pause, just long enough for Sweostor to kick her in the flank. The girl tumbled aside as the big man righted himself and ran for the front of the cabin. Wîflic gave chase as Cennestre pounced onto the roof, bolting like a four-legged beast toward the escapee. Wîflic watched as Cennestre leaped down, between the doorway and her father.
“You’re a demon!” shrieked Sweostor.
“No. She is a Lîcfæt. She cannot rest until what needs to be done, is done,” corrected Wîflic.
The girl adroitly slashed at her father’s thigh, cutting him deep. Sweoster fell in a heap on the ground, just in front of the door to his family home. Cennestre brought her terrible face close to his.
“The grave you made, it’s beautiful,” she cooed in her raspy voice.
“I always loved you, Cennestre. I’m so sorry. The drink has never really agreed with me.”
“Oh, excuses are my least favorite thing,” the creature chided.
“She’s not yours anymore, father. She’s what you get when something unjust and disgusting happens. Something like murdering the mother of your child,” added Wîflic.
“You know, sod this! You always were too smart for your age. It’s all those books your fucking mother let you read!”
“She was good like that. I summoned her back… with a book.”
Wîflic leaned over and cut a sizeable gash into her father’s chest. Cennestre licked her lips and dug her clawed fingers into Sweostor’s flesh, snapping bone and tearing muscle. The man screamed and writhed in agony, as the Lîcfæt ripped his heart out and feasted upon it. She would soon be at peace.