Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #21

Suggested By: Kimberly Rogers

The List:
-Nerissa (*Supplied by me)
-Black Forest
-Dark Ages
-Freya's Necklace

The Result:
"Serenity's Light, Part 3"

Nerissa shivered and pulled the edges of her cloak around her. The snow crunched underfoot. She had traced Relaya's attacker through a portal and into this realm, but she was not prepared for the winter that cut through her clothing like a knife. She followed his long, deep footprints until she came to a village of thatch-roof huts. She followed the heavy stench of unwashed men and the sharp bite of grain and fermentation to one of the larger buildings. Nerissa pulled her hood over her face to hide—but when she entered, concealment didn't much matter. All attention was focused on the table near the edge of the room. A man stood over it, just finishing his grand tale.
"It's eyes were full of hellfire and I could sense in its touch every horror I could ever imagine—but in the end, I outsmarted the beast and claimed my prize!" He held something aloft, and Nerissa gasped. The bronze collar in his hand had surely been one of the Three Relics! The man dropped it on the pile of coins at the center.

His opponent—a tall, broad-shouldered man—grunted. "Thinkest thou I am like unto a woman?" He queried evenly. "Shall I adorn myself with pretty trinkets?"
The first man smiled. "But I have not told you its name; you are a Northerner, are you not?"
The man did not break his gaze or raise his voice. "Verily."
The man shrugged, gesturing to the necklace. "Then perhaps you have heard of the Brisingamen?"
A collective gasp spread around the room. The burly Northerner jumped up from the table with an oath. "It is blasphemy, that a foreigner should be in possession of the necklace belonging to the Queen of Valhalla!" He glared at the man. "I shall have naught of they trickery, foul fiend!"
"Diego Montoya is not a fiend!" Cried the man. "It is no trick that has brought this necklace into my hand! I faced the mire-beast and won... Would you care to redeem this piece of your people's history and culture?"
The man traced the sign of Freya over his head. "Not I!" He cried. "I have no money to put up against it."
"What about a crown?"
Nerissa flinched as the voice came from somewhere beside her. The speaker strode toward the table, and the Light-Bearer mused that someone else had used her same tactics,a heavy cloak and the mottled shadows, so well that not even she had noticed him.

He swaggered toward the table.
"Diego Montoya, is it?" He asked. "What is a noble explorer like yourself doing in the Black Forest?"
The foreigner nodded. "You have heard of me, then? You would bet a crown against all this?" He pointed to the spoils on the table.
A small smile played around the young man's lips. The light of the fire glinted off something around his waist.
Nerissa tensed; he was wearing the sword she had given to Relaya! Nerissa did not doubt that the sword gave him confidence to stand up to this Diego Montoya.
The young man reached into the leather pouch about his waist and pulled out something circular and golden.
"Not just any crown," he announced. "This one."
Diego stared at the man in shock. "She told me there were others, even as she explained the collar to me... Who are you?" He asked.
"Jens," said the Northerner. "Jens Hjordisson; I was told to find the other
artifacts. Thank you for supplying the missing piece."
Diego frowned. "I was told to watch for just the same things. The collar is not yours yet! Who knows but I may win the crown from you."
Jens snorted, but Nerissa did detect a haggard was around his eyes. "Not that I would not wish it could be so, but I am afraid I cannot let that happen."
Diego grinned. "A challenge! Let us begin the game."
Nerissa trembled all over as she slipped out of the tavern. All Three Relics under one roof; it was too much for her. And who was this mysterious employer distributing the relics at random? She had always assumed her enemy to be a male, since the Darkness had spoken with a masculine voice—but what if the true thief had been a woman? Nerissa settled in a pile of hay at the corner of the barn and curled up within her cloak to wait.

Within an hour, she heard the sound of sloshing and singing. Jens Hjordisson stumbled around in the snow, celebrating his victory. Nerissa moved into position.

"Are you proud, Freya?" He bellowed to the night sky. "I have reclaimed your necklace, and kept the crown and sword you gave me!" He took another swig, so full of ale that half of it dribbled down his chin. "I have your things! Will you not now lift my curse?"
He stopped as a hooded, feminine figure appeared in front of him. Collapsing to his knees, Jens clasped his hands like a supplicant. "Set me free," he wept. "Set me free, I beg you!"
Nerissa had to keep the giddiness out of her voice; she had every intention of doing just that!
"Do you have them?" She asked. "Do you have them all?"
Jens nodded, pulling the crown and collar out of his bag. "I have won these for you, my lady Freya."
Nerissa reached out her gloved hands, careful that her skin would not come into contact with the magical relics. She took the crown, and when he offered her the necklace, she pretended to defer. "That is not Frey—ah, my necklace," she said. "You may keep it, with my blessing." She relished the stunned reverence on his face as she slipped the collar around his neck and clasped it. Instantly, his eyes rolled back, and he jumped to his feet, looking around him in confusion.
"What? What is this?" He stammered. "Where am I?"
Nerissa shrugged. "I was hoping you could tell me. I think it is called Black Forest or something."
Jens frowned and squinted at the young woman before him who stood only as tall as his shoulder. "Why am I in the Black Forest?"
"Can you tell me your name?" Nerissa asked.
He blinked. "My... My name? I don't remember—" He looked down at the collar around his neck and the sword on his belt. "What are these?" He asked. "They aren't mine."
Nerissa smiled. "They are mine; you were going to return them to me."
"I was?" Jens immediately set about unbuckling the belt and unclasping the necklace. The minute it was all in her hands, he blurted, "Jens!"
Nerissa felt the tension returning. "What?"
"That's my name," he smiled with relief. "Jens."
She watched him warily, even as she pretended to be absorbed in fastening the sword on her own belt. "Do you remember anything else?" She asked casually.
Jens pursed his lips. "No."
Nerissa whirled around, wielding the heavy crown like a discus. The edge clouted Jens in the temple and he sank back onto the snow.
Nerissa dragged the body deeper into the forest. Reaching into her satchel, she pulled out a small pouch. The contents appeared to be nothing more than common sand, but when she scattered a handful to the wind, it sparkled and glowed in one area, revealing the existence of a portal. Still dragging the body, she went through it.

The forest on the other side was in the height of summer, instead of the dead of winter. Nerissa finally dropped the body on a bed of lush green undergrowth. She was in a strange realm, with three dangerous relics on her hands. Voices caught her attention.

"But I am sure I heard something, Kenneth!"
"Agnes, it's the middle of the night. It's probably nothing."
"You and I both know that in a time like this, it has to be fairies."
A sigh. "Fine, I'll check it out."
Nerissa drew deeper into the shadows as a light almost as bright as the fragment of Serenity she carried cut through the trees. Whoever it was, they were coming closer. She would not be caught, not today. She slipped away as she heard the man speak again.

"What the—Agnes! Nakoma! Come quickly! There's a body back here!"

Previously in This Series:
#15 "Rendezvous"("Soul Mates" Part 6/"Serenity's Light" Part 2)