The Masquerader

Based loosely after Ragnorak (The end of the world in Norse Mythology) we follow the story of a misplaced trickster in training, Astrid CrystalArmorer. Left on Ascent, the NEW city above the clouds after Asgard fell, Astrid finds herself the scapegoat for all of the woes of the city so cruel that they burn liars alive. In six days, Astrid must turn this world upon its head to save those who need her most, or burn alive trying.

All at the age of ten.

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6. Antagonizing Astrid

“Astrid Dorr CrystalArmorer!” Ynir scolded sharply in a furious tone that had Astrid shrinking miserably as she slunk off the pile of table rubble slowly. “Uh oh.. You used my full name.. This isn't gonna good..” She tried the half hearted joke softly before giving up entirely on dry humor and took to miserably peering at her feet in bashful dread.

 “Let me explain, Ynir..” Astrid implored pleadingly, turning her toes in a fidgeting, anxious motion for a long, tense moment before she slowly dragged her reluctant gaze upwards, displaying the brightest blue puppy dog eyes that anyone had ever seen.

 Ynir narrowed his eyes in short tempered anger before turning on his heel, sweetly kissing Iheia gently on the cheek as he shooed her aside with a careful, calculated gesture, “Take a walk, darling. You don't need the exertion.. I'll handle this.” He assured with a confident smile, prompting Iheia's gentle smile in return before it was lost the instant that she turned her features to Astrid, instead choosing to direct a seething glare to the fidgetting child.

 Sighing softly, Astrid's eyes drifted sullenly to her half bare feet as she absently curled her toes into the knotted carpet in dread.

 This wasn't going to be good.

 Despite herself, Astrid curiously peered through her lashes as Iheia stalked past her with an impressive amount of grace for a woman who looked like she just ate another woman.

 I wonder if she would have done more than tolerate me if I were born with her gold hair, or honest grin, Astrid thought dejectedly as her young gaze slipped once more to her feet under the heat of Iheia's unrelenting, seething glare.

 A loud smack filled the air as Iheia strode past Astrid as she bitterly bore the back of her hand to the side of Astrid's already aching skull. “Ack!” Astrid complained in shock as she stumbled forward. Sourly, Astrid raised her hand, rubbing her fingertips over the sore spot as Iheia slammed the crookedly hanging door behind herself.

 No, Iheia would never have cared, Astrid concluded bitterly, She only ever wanted sons. Her newborn could have five eyes, two noses, and eighteen fingers; so long as he's a boy.

 Ynir's tender demeanor snapped the instant that the door shut behind the woman and instantly, the man furiously charged forward with a shaking rage to tower over Astrid's hanging head.

 “You obliterated our new rooftop!” Ynir accused as he threw a wild gesture to the patched roof in a grand dramatics that nearly slapped Astrid across the face. “I just spent weeks repairing that! Is my time worth nothing to you? Are you under the impression that I have bottomless money on hand to repair the damn thing time and time again?” Ynir demanded, spittle flying from his mouth in his violent rage as he spitefully leaned closer to Astrid's quickly misting eyes. “On top of that, you utterly destroyed our table, a family heirloom carved by your great-great grandfather!” He hissed with cruelty, pointedly ignoring as Astrid wiped aside her brimming tears.

 “Yes, Ynir.” Astrid diligently nodded, resting her gaze miserably on the floor as Ynir barged past the typical ending for a proper scolding, “Quiet, Astrid! I'm not even done yet.” He insisted as he held up his cursed left hand, the skin a mess of scarred tissue that spanned generations; Astrid had it herself, “You missed your curfew.” He ticked off the first finger childishly.

 “Ruined our family dinner.” He continued, ticking off the next.

 “Shocked your mother half to death..” He droned on, ticking off a third before a thought occurred to his short tempered mind, “Has it occurred to you that the babe could be hurt because of you?” Ynir growled angrily.

 “I-I didn't mean to!” Astrid exclaimed, snapping her features to meet Ynir's vengeful gaze in a movement so quick that the tears streaking down her cheeks flew through the air.

 “You could have killed the babe. You could have killed us.”

 “I-I- I didn't..!” Astrid stammered pleadingly.

 “You didn't what? Drop through the rooftop we were just standing beside?” Ynir exclaimed, throwing a hand to the rather immense hole in the rooftop and the pile of lumber that was once a table. “Try to kill us all? Your family? You didn't try to kill your family?”

 “Well-Well, I did fall.. But it was, it was an accident!”

 “An accident?”

 A desperate grin stretched across Astrid's salted cheeks as she leapt upon the opportune chance to explain her portion of the tale, “There was a stone!” She started, tumbling over her own tongue in her eagerness, “-And The Evelnii snatched me up!” Astrid explained, gracing the air with grand gestures describing the wild adventure boldly, “Then there was this immense dragon, and its bro! And- and, well.. There was a bit of a fight.” Astrid considered, smiling hopefully at the extended silence, desiring nothing more than the scolding to be finished, “And during it, I was dropped.” Astrid finished bluntly.

 “You antagonised The Evelnii?!” Ynir bared his teeth in burning anger. “The sacred Evelnii?”

 “I didn't antagonize that giant bird brain! It just snatched me up!” Astrid exclaimed in her defense, frustration quickly invading her tear stained eyes as the scolding carried on mercilessly.

 “And what about Ivor? You antagonized that poor boy!” Ynir prompted with the sole, spiteful intention of provoking Astrid's frustration to provide himself another reason to further the scolding. An entirely endless cycle.

 “You punched Ivor in the face so hard his eye bleeds beneath the surface! He's missing three teeth, spitting blood, and half his face is swollen up like a balloon!”

 “Yeah..” Astrid reminisced with a fond smile in a smug pleasure.

 “Explain yourself, young lady. Now.”

 “Those brattish children wanted to hang Fead!” Astrid bellowed in frustration, her cheeks turning a bright red with salted anger.

 “So?” Ynir asked in puzzlement.

 “They wanted to hang Fead!” Astrid screamed shrilly, her breath growing rasped at the exertion of the argument.

 Ynir leaned his features close to Astrid's own in smug pleasure, noting the anger within the child with pride, “Real men fight for themselves! Real men don't need little girls to leap to their defense!” He declared, his own temper rising.

 “This little girl just knocked one of your real men on his ass in one blow!” Astrid brandished her trembling fist before Ynir's gaze in valiant pride. “That little bastard earned it, too! How's that for your, real men?”

 Ynir turned his back promptly to Astrid in his rage as he slowly clentched his unscarred fist at his side. Breathing deeply to calm herself, Astrid closed her eyes, soothing her pained lungs for a long moment before directing a pleading look to Ynir's back, “Father, I-”

 Ynir spun on his heel, slamming his fist into Astrid's skull as hard as he possibly could. Unsurpringly, Astrid collapsed, clutching the bleeding wound with trembling fingertips as hot tears welled up at her eyes in pain, “You wouldn't know a thing about real men.” Astrid condemned in a shaking voice as she directed a seething glare towards Ynir in complete and unbridled hatred as blood poured from the tender wound.

 “And you have something that you haven't told me.” Astrid snarled accusingly, directing a pointed look towards Ynir's bleeding fist as she held up her own, unmarred one. “Something important.”

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