The courier disliked the person he was supposed to meet.
He had never met her personally or even seen her before – but he knew he wasn’t going to like her. During the Great War, she had been an iconic figure, quite the speaker and admired far and wide across the Grey Havens. But, after the War, she’d become overcome with greed until her own people at Battersea had exiled her for treachery and mercenary activities. The courier’s people, the people of Greenloch, had sold her some land, but the people in general kept their distance.
The green fields and the fresh air zipped by him, as the courier sped along a cobbled path, bouncing on the back of his horse as the animal pressed on merrily. As they neared their destination, a steady chop, chop, chop resounded. The courier saw her, in an old vest and loose trousers, chopping wood for her fire tonight. She had long blonde hair that was held back in a simple ponytail and green eyes that focused on the stump she chopped her wood on. Sweat poured down her face, cutting through the grime she’d gained through the day work.
She wasn’t a particularly beautiful woman to look at.
Her arm muscles rippled as she raised and swung her axe – the brutal blade catching the light of the setting sun. She sensed the courier’s approach and looked up at him. He noticed the diagonal, white scar on the left side of her face that marked her as an outcast.
“Are you Gunnhild of Battersea?” he asked.
She threw her axe to a side and sat on the stump, taking a flask from her belt and drinking, “Who wants to know?” her voice was gruff and deep.
“I’m the courier for Mercia, Lady of Greenloch,” he dismounted, standing close to his horse, as he pulled out a scroll and handed into to her.
Gunnhild snatched the scroll out of his hand, tearing it open and skimming through the words with furrowed brows, and then looked surprised, “My people exiled me,” she said slowly, itching behind her pointed ear, “Why would Lady Mercia want me to do this?”
The courier shrugged, “I only deliver messages, ma’am, not decipher them.”
“I’m not sure I want to fight Greenloch’s wars, mate,” she handed the scroll back to the courier and picked up her axe.
The courier tilted his head to a side, “Are you declining the offer?”
“Are you a moron?”
He sighed, “Well, I’m still having this conversation, so.”
“Well-played,” she scoffed, taking a block of wood and straightening it on the stump, “but, yes, my dismissal of the offer was implied.”
“The Lady seeks an audience with you.”
“And I don’t want to go.”
“The message wasn’t a question. It was an order.”
“I don’t take orders,” Gunnhild swung her axe and smashed the block of wood into two clean halves.
“This will be a first, then,” the courier mounted his horse, “the Lady will be expecting you.”
“I’m not coming.”
“Then expect eviction.”
Gunnhild looked up at him, “Excuse me?”
“The Lady doesn’t keep what she doesn’t need,” he said, tugging the reins on his horse with one hand while patting the horse’s head affectionately, “You’re a little more than an asset, ma’am. You always have been. I suggest that you make an appearance. Or you might not like the consequences.”