(continued from Part 1)
Integra and her Great White Bear, Engelbert, drew a great deal of interest from others that were camped nearby but none would come close. Both rider and mount were hungry and the heat of the South had left their throats parched.
“Stay!” she commanded the Great White Bear and the mighty beast lay on the ground with a grunt. He eyed the crowds nearby, a glint of hunger in his eyes. “No eating the neighbours,” she added with a wicked grin.
She walked towards the main camp looking at the many foods that were on display. The group of ruffians she had spotted were watching her closely. there were half a dozen of them and she had no doubt they were footpads, cutpurses and burglars. There would be hundreds of thieves here, not all as honest enough to look the part as these did so well.
She needed raw meat for Engelbert, a decent meal would see him through the whole visit. but all she could see here was a scrawny chickens, hares and a few geese.
She bought a chunk of cheese to eat while she looked further,she secured a barrel of water at a reasonable price and arranged for it to be delivered to her camp later in the evening. She smelt roast boar ahead and located the source.
A fat man, almost a giant, was turning a spit with a large boar already well roasted. He was a Moorsman, from the grassy hills that bordered the Tundra. He wore woolen trousers with a blue-brown plaid pattern, his torso was naked save a white leather apron, smeared with blood, fat and soot.
“Ah, Icemaiden!” he greeted her as she approached, “I have much fat!”
“So I see!” Integra replied looking pointedly at his paunch.
The Moorsman snorted, not unlike a hog.
He pointed to a nearby cart that had piles of raw belly pork strewn across it. Flys were crawling across the raw and stinking mass. At times Great White Bears would gorge on weeks old Whale blubber from a carcass, air-dried by the air well below freezing. The ripe pork would be a luxury to Engelbert.
Integra and the Moorsman dickered over the price for a few minutes but settled on a price they were both truly happy with. As the money changed hands the Moorsman lent forward a little.
“You are aware of the eyes on you?” he asked quietly.
“They’ve been watching me for half an hour now.” Integra replied.
“Five,” the fat giant cautioned her.
“Six, their leader has circled around us and is watching you closely.” she replied, her lips hardly moving.
Around them everyone else was a Southerner, they were in among some of the poorest at those that had come to watch the event. They would not be able to rely on any assistance from others and the money being exchanged made either of them a prospective target to the six ruffians.
An example was required and Integra decided swiftly what to do. She grabbed a skewer that was in the fire, cubes of belly pork bubbling along its length and she turned with incredible speed and pushed it through the throat of one of the men just as he had begun to rush at her.
Releasing the skewer as the man gasped and clawed at the hot metal, his wound cauterised by the heat but his wind pipe was collapsing. Integra had drawn a knife from her thigh length boot and threw it, taking him in the left eye.
The Moorsman had caught hold of third man and was crushing the life out of him with a bear hug.
The leader of the group called off the other two, cutting his losses they ran through the crowd.
Looking around her Integra saw that the Southerners had pulled back from the scene of violence and most looked on in awe. Three men killed in no more than three heartbeats and two by a diminutive woman. Most had not seen a warrior from the Icefields, let alone a woman such as Integra.
“You should move nearer to other Moorsmen as soon as possible.” she said her temporary ally as he tossed the corpse of his victim aside.
“I am not alone.” he said.
Two men emerged from under the cart, bows in hand. A third stood up, belly pork falling off him.
“No one will trouble me now they have seen this.” he grinned.
“Take care,” he said as Integra walked away, the man who had been hiding on the cart carried her order behind her.
She returned to the camp and saw that Engelbert had killed two more Southern ruffians. He was chewing on the head of one.
“Leave the meat here, you smell too much of food.” she cautioned the Moorsman.
Militiamen were arriving as she walked over to Engelbert.
“Your beast is a danger!” their sergeant declared, looking down on her past an angular nose.
“Only to fools that try to steal from me,” she replied casually.
“I must insist you move your camp to the top field.” the sergeant said.
Clearly the violent deaths of a few footpads was no real concern to him.
“You must ‘insist’?” she asked, putting her hands on her hips. Engelbert growled, dropping the corpse of the would-be thief.
“My apologies Champion of Ice,” a deep voice said from beyond the Militiamen.
A tall Knight sat upon a Pegasus smiled warmly. “It is better you camp with the other Knights. You are no commoner.”
Integra stifled a laugh, in the Icefields all were born equal and strove to be greater than those before them. In the South the powerful were born to power and the common born were kept low.
Nevertheless it was better to get a look at the opponents she would face sooner than later.
Continued in Part 3