WARNING: Edgy stream of consciousness ahead!



Hone the knife. Must be sharp. The girl doesn't know how long she has sat there on the wet sand, holding the little blade against the stone, watching the waves roll up the beach. Back and forth, back and forth. Her fingers are numb, swollen things, slick and raw. She feels it, but the pain is a distant murmur. She tests the knife with one finger. Her thumb bursts open like rotten fruit, black blood oozing from white flesh. Dead hands for a dead eye. Ridiculous. She laughs like a corpse, croaks and wheezes, coughs and splutters, tasting iron in her mouth. She's a wicked thing now, born of Mother Sea, brine for blood. She draws herself together like blood slick sand, packing it tight, making it hold. Hone the knife. Must be sharp.

Her memory betrays her. The rich scent of clove oil and incense. Warm breath, sweet and heady with wine. Eyes like polished amber, gleaming with mischief. She falls apart, slipping through her fingers, folding over to screech and sob, to claw at the wet sand with unfeeling hands. Such a silly girl.

She watches herself soak into the decking. Head like broken glass, bones like old dry timbers. Her right eye is a smouldering coal, unseeing, unfeeling. Four claws hold her down, fingers of cold iron digging into her flesh. Doesn't want to look, doesn't want to know. Her all stands alone now, surrounded by dogs dressed as men and women, barking, growling, nipping at her heels. She stands tall, proud, an unconquerable thing, bloodied and wild. The viper strikes one last time, a gleaming line of silver reaching out to touch her chest, to cut her strings. A red flower blossoms over her heart as she stumbles, falls, hitting the deck with a sound like thunder. The girl screams and screams, even as they toss her over the railing, even as the waves fill her lungs and the salt scours her numbing flesh. Hone the knife. Must be sharp.

Draped across her hammock like a jungle cat, bronze skin gleaming, dark eyes peering. The ship rocks, sunlight dancing through a porthole to catch a single foreign coin, a square of silver braided into butterscotch locks. Smoke hangs in the air, hot with spice and sickly sweet. She smiles down at the girl, and her head spins with the joy of it.

She watches the fire work its way through the palatial manor from her perch on the hillside overlooking the township, wringing her sticky hands together in the dark. The townsfolk scurry about like little insects, panicking, some shouting orders as others yet simply stand and watch. They form an orderly chain from the well to the smouldering home, but the fire has it now. A cry goes up as the roof suddenly gives way, falling in on itself, sending a plume of spark and flame into the cool night air as the throng of spectators scuttle back to a safer distance. The girl's hands look black under the moonlight. She feels no relief, no elation. A knife without a hand to warm her, a blade without a sheath.

Hone the knife. Must be sharp. She holds the small blade in two unsteady hands, point toward her, thin as pain. The sea murmurs and sighs. She tries to set her jaw, tries to tell herself it needs to be done. She can't die here, won't die here. Work to be done, work no one else cares to do. No one else left to care. The knife hovers there, trembling, her shift soaked in sweat, black hair plastered to her scalp.

A warm hand encloses hers. She wonders how such rough and calloused hands could have felt so soft. Dark eyes dance with moonlight. A single red flower unfurls on her chest. Her smile is bright and beautiful and horrifying.

"My dear sweet Mouse~."



It takes a curiously long moment for Skadi to remember where she is. Blinking up at the rafters, the old norn watches a mote of dust dance in one narrow beam of dawn's first light. Her keen nose catches the scent of something delicious beyond the now familar hints of lavender and fresh clean linen. She smiles softly to herself as she recognises the welcome odour of fried blood pudding. With a groaning sigh she gingerly hitches her legs over to place one bare foot to the floorboards, blinking at the stump where her right foot used to be. One rough hand reaches down to massage the remains of her calf, trying to work some blood into her aching muscles with a low hiss.

A melodic voice drifts up the stairs into the bedroom, softly singing a familiar tune. After eliciting several rewarding pops from her old bones, Skadi reaches out to grasp her false leg. Pulling the final strap tight, she gives the limb a tentative slap before pulling herself up with a grunt, arching her back and scratching at her stomach. Awkwardly pulling on a pair of leather hose, the old norn takes a moment to ensure her eyepatch is on straight before she cautiously sets to ambling down the stairs, a crooked smile on her scarred lips.