Scandinavia: 5th Century
Within a ring of carefully arranged stones, deep in the woods, the woman kneels at the feet of the shaman, head bowed, listening as her mentor details the ritual.
The voice echoes as if passing through time, emerging from the shadowy face barely visible under the gaping mouth of the wolfskin cloak.
“It is time. I have taught you all that I can of the will of the Gods. Now you must find the man who will be the one to save the world from darkness.
“The warrior must go forth into battle, bare to the attack, unafraid of death. The power will come to the warrior and he will rend the enemy’s head from its body, as the wolf tears its prey. Even in death he will be reborn, and with every rebirth he will become stronger.
“Many warriors will be chosen to play this Game, and at the last the remaining two will gather and fight to the death. Only these chosen ones can truly bring death to the others; no mere mortal can kill them.”
The shaman shakes her head, muttering an incantation, and the bones adorning her fur headdress rattle hollowly. She draws a crooked dagger from a bag at her feet and holds it in her palms towards the apprentice. Runes crawl up the blade and fade out as the shaman continues speaking.
“This blade will choose the warrior, and his intentions must be pure. In the wrong hands, this weapon will bring darkness and blood unto the world for all eternity. Here, on this hallowed ground, Odin be my witness, I give this to you. Though it may be an eternity from now, go forth and find the warrior who will wield this weapon and save the world.”
Constance rises to her feet and takes the blade in her hand. The power of the knife hums and sings through her blood as she steps close to the shaman.
“Thank you mistress,” she says humbly, reaching for the shaman as if to embrace her. As they move together Constance draws the blade deeply through the shaman’s neck, slicing through flesh and bone as easily as through air. It happens so quickly that the shaman’s expression has time to contort into one of surprise before both head and body drop bonelessly to the floor.
Constance is familiar with what comes next; she’s trained under her mentor and seen the power come to her, so she’s not surprised when blue lightning crackles through the treetops and strikes the headless body, drawing it into the air as a stream of energy flows out of its neck and slams into Constance with great force.
Her body morphs in the crackling light, flickers of red and purple darting out of the maelstrom, and when the light stops, the ring of stones lie cracked and blackened. A silver wolf, standing alone in the center, shakes out her ruff and bounds silently into the woods.
“Nicole! Come doon fae there! Ye’r nae a brownie” shouts Conor Haught, looking on in abject terror as his five-year-old daughter and only child scrambles fearlessly up the stone walls of their manor. She’s got to be several falls up and that’s what she’ll do he fears, fall .
Nicole’s always been a wild child, not willful per se but...determined perhaps. She’s never been one to wait for permission to do or go after something that she wants...and right now, Nicole wants to climb.
“A’m braw da,” she calls back but in that instance the inevitable happens, her leather-clad foot slips and her hands grab fruitlessly for a hold as her body is suddenly thrown off-balance. Conor draws a deep breath as it seems that Nicole will be able to hold on to the wall, and then time seems to stand still as her grip breaks free, sending Nicole tumbling backwards in what would, in any other circumstance, be a beautiful dive.
Conor can’t even scream. He’s about to watch his child die and he’s frozen in place. He remains that way for what feels like an eternity but in reality is only seconds, until with a sickening crunch Nicole impacts the ground, her limbs twisted awkwardly. She lies still.
“She’s aff tae die,” intones the healer, no sentiment evident in his voice. His judgement bleeds through in his tone, what kind of father lets a girl run wild ? Nicole lies silent, wrapped in a rough spun cloth, blood still seeping from her nose in a slow ooze. “Ha’ the priest see her,” he commands, and rises to leave. Her father strokes her face desperately, speechless as the priest gives her the last rites.
Later, Nicole lies motionless on the pallet. She’s alone in the dark manor, cool as a cave. Everything hurts, she thinks, even as the pain morphs and changes in her body. “Da…,” she calls weakly, “....ma bones itch,” then passes out.
Days pass and Nicole doesn’t die. The clansmen and their families think it’s a miracle. “She’s a pure tough bairn,” they complement her father. “God was peepin ower her,” he’s told. The day she finally rises from the pallet and goes outside is the best day of Conor’s life. He vows to watch over her, tame her...to not lose her like he lost her mother those years back. But Nicole’s will cannot be denied, and she proves to be hard to kill.
Quebec City, le Canada region: 1608
A slim figure sidles alongside the low slung timber lodge, crouching under a window opening to peer inside. Around the edge of a heavy canvas covering, the interloper catches a glimpse of a roaring fire and a table set with victuals, a coarse loaf of bread and a flagon of some beverage. A hay mattress lies upon a slab of stone with a snoring blanket-swaddled lump upon it, a mess of dark hair the only thing visible. The fur-clad person throws one leg and then the other carefully over the sill, sneaking stealthily into the lodge, pulling back the hood of their parka to reveal sparkling blue eyes and long black hair.
Wynonna, for that is her name, chances a quick look around the lodge and smirks to find it empty, save for the sleeping figure on the bed. She quietly takes a sniff at the flagon and appreciatively helps herself to a large gulp of whiskey. At least this boy knows how to lay a table , she thinks. Throwing off her heavy furs to reveal a shapely body clad in men’s trousers and shirt, she moves quickly over to the bed and slides in next to the sleeper, wrapping her arm around their waist and leaning in to the back of their head with a throaty command, “Wake up, Louis! I can’t believe you’re asleep, knowing I was coming here tonight. I risk life and limb for a piece of your cod, you lazy fisherman.”
The sleeper wakes with a start, turning in Wynonna’s arms to reveal not Louis, but his younger sister Eloise, who happens to also be dark-haired and pretty. Eloise gasps upon seeing Wynonna and pushes back in her arms as simultaneously Wynonna slides away from her and puts her hands up, silently conveying that she means no harm.
“Sacre bleu!” Eloise breathes out as Wynonna tries to creep towards the edge of the bed. “Wait!” the girl cries. “Wynonna, yes?.... you’re the fur trader. Louis has gone away with the fishermen. DId he not tell you he was going?” Wynonna shakes her head mutely, but her eyes sparkle as she takes in the younger girl’s figure in her nightdress. Eloise catches her looking and a pretty blush spreads across her cheeks. She holds out her hand, inviting. “It’s cold out...why not stay, trader?”
Scottish Highlands: 1547
Nicole is sixteen years old. Her red hair flames around her shoulders, and she’s already several inches taller than her contemporaries. Wrapped in the blue and green tartan of the Haught clan, her arms bare, Nicole cuts a striking figure as she strides through the heather, swinging a hardened staff in her wake. Scars mar her creamy skin, evidence of a life of hard-won adventure. A large meandering red blemish up one arm tells the story of another fall, this one down a steep canyon, her progress stopped by her arm becoming wedged in between two slabs of granite. It’s a wonder it wasn’t torn off, but Nicole’s been inordinately lucky all her life. Both hands are calloused, the knuckles criss-crossed with white healed injuries, from the climbing habit she’s never been able to shake.
The Haught clansmen view Nicole with some suspicion these days. “A man wid hae died by noo considering howfur often…” her aunt Elspeth whispers to Conor, but he hushes her immediately. “Nicole is special,” he replies fondly, but he can’t hide the concern that creases his brow.
Boys aren’t interested in Nicole, she’s too confident and independent, but more importantly she’s not interested in them. Nicole’s managed to shirk tradition thus far and finds work tending the flocks of a friend of her father, Ross, who lives alone with his daughter Aileen. Sheepherding suits her need to be outdoors and solitary, and her unusual strength and speed have saved sheep on more than one occasion.
On a blustery morning she finds herself awoken quite early by nervous bleating from the flock. Nicole wraps herself in her cloak and belts it; grabbing her staff she heads out of her hut to find the sheep circling and backing, the younger sheep instinctively pushed towards the center of the flock. Then she sees it, the red eyes of a wolf gleaming just through the heather.
Yelling loudly and brandishing her staff, Nicole runs without hesitation toward the wolf, which surprises her by standing its ground confidently and baring its teeth. Just as Nicole swings her staff at the wolf’s head, it leaps. She just manages to draw the staff across her chest, slavering jaws snap down on the hardwood, and they tumble to the ground.
Nicole expertly wields her staff, surprising the animal by shoving it hard, up and away, as she bounds to her feet, immediately swinging and cracking the wolf across the shoulder. It yelps and staggers, and Nicole takes advantage of the wolf being off balance to twirl her staff in her hands, raising it like a spear and bringing it down hard onto the middle of the wolf’s skull. The animal collapses, gasping, as Nicole pulls a short dirk from her belt and straddles the wolf. She pulls its head up with her forearm and draws the dirk quickly across its throat.
Nicole waits quietly as the wolf bleeds out, its teeth snapping futilely and its body bucking against her, once...twice...until it eventually succumbs and lies still. Only then does she stand up and look around herself. Out of the corner of her eye she notices a quick movement on the bluff and squinting, she makes out another wolf of an unusual silver color, staring at her for a long moment before moving silently away. The sheep are quiet and she turns toward the main hut to see Ross’ back as he corrals the animals. Aileen watches her with a soft smile on her face then raises her hand to Nicole. A new warm feeling arises in Nicole’s chest as Aileen’s smile grows.
On her seventeenth birthday, Nicole climbs the ladder in their barn and finds herself out of breath for the first time in her life. She takes in Aileen, naked in the hayloft on her cloak, her downy skin on display, a pale contrast to her clan’s bold tartan. Nicole’s normally steady hands fail her as she reaches for her belt, trying blindly to unclasp the buckle, when Aileen sits up and reaches a hand towards her.
“Let me help,” she implores softly, and Nicole shuffles closer on her knees, watching as Aileen removes her belt and lays it aside, opening her wrapped cloak and pushing it off of her shoulders. The cool air hits Nicole’s chest and she exhales through her nose; Aileen must be able to see her heart beating so hard in her chest, she thinks. As if reading her mind, Aileen lays a hand between her breasts. “Yer sae bonnie,” she smiles at Nicole, reaching her other hand up to caress Nicole’s jaw. Aileen boldly trails her hand down Nicole’s neck and over her collarbone, around her breast and underneath it, cupping, and Nicole watches her nipples stiffen, in awe.
“Kin I touch ye,” Nicole asks shyly and Aileen nods her consent, bringing her hand back up to Nicole’s jaw, she pulls her in to her lips. Nicole braces herself with a hand on either side of Aileen’s shoulders as they fall back on the cloak. It isn’t long before Nicole discovers that there’s a rhythm to kissing that comes naturally to them. Time seems to stand still as the only sound is the bleating of sheep, the humming of bees, and their increasingly heavier breathing as Nicole’s hand finds it way to stroke up and down Aileen’s torso and eventually parts the golden curls between her legs.
Nicole has always learned everything by doing it, and touch is her most sharply defined sense. Her fingertips are calloused but ultra sensitive, made so through years of finding the tiniest holds on rock faces. When she finally touches Aileen it feels like an electric shock courses through both of them; for Nicole it starts at her fingertips and shoots straight to her heart. Aileen rears back in pleasure, “Och, Nicole,” she gasps out, clutching at Nicole’s shoulder, and Nicole’s mouth drops open in awe at the feeling of so much wet slickness in her palm.
Sex is messy and instinctive, Nicole finds, as she uses those strong and talented fingers to figure out exactly what Aileen likes best, even as her own body unconsciously grinds against Aileen’s. The pleasure is so great, so unexpected, that they both quickly climax. Slightly stunned, they stare at each other then start to giggle. Nicole hides her face in Aileen’s long hair and laughs, her heart light and soaring, everything right in her world.
Quebec City, le Canada region: 1610
Wynonna tromps through the snow, reflecting sourly on how her feet sink in up to my vagina, she thinks. A dead beaver is slung over one shoulder. She arrives at one of her fur traps and is happy to find another beaver caught within. She mentally tallies her day’s work and determines that she can purchase a hot meal and a bottle of whiskey that night, and possibly the lovely Eloise is available as well , she muses.
Wynonna loses herself for a moment, remembering a number of evenings spent in her company. Eloise knows how to please a woman , Wynonna reflects, better than her brother actually. It’s a shame she’s marrying off to the cooper. She’s so lost in thought that she almost misses the softest crunching of snow behind her, in combination with an unforgettable buzz down her spine. Wynonna freezes, listening hard, and hears it again... crunch …
Leaning slowly over the beaver trap, as if to remove the dead animal, she slips a short, thick sword from inside her coat where it lies concealed along her leg. The hair on the back of her neck stands up, every sense on full alert until suddenly she drops to a crouch, a sword stroke whistling over her head a millisecond later. Wynonna spins on her heels, getting her feet solidly under her as she bounds up, jumping with admirable dexterity over the beaver trap and buying herself some space.
“I take it you’re not here for beaver,” she challenges.
The opponent grins at her. “I’ll take yours, you unnatural creature,” he quips nastily, “right before I cut that head from your body.”
“Fasil,” Wynonna grunts, “You frog bastard. You’ve come all the way to the frozen wilderness of Canada just to die?”
“Sale pute!” Fasil screeches, as he swipes and thrusts his sword at Wynonna. “There can be only one!”
“I left you to live at the behest of that bastard Cartier, Fasil,” Wynonna grunts, dodging his sword. “He promised you would leave me alone if I didn’t kill you.” Wynonna stumbles momentarily, blocking a whistling stroke as she scramble backwards in the snow. “Listen, we can figure out this ‘only one’ thing when it actually matters...live our lives,” she cajoles.
“Don’t speak that name to me,” Fasil spits. “Cartier left me to die from the scurvy. There’s no such thing as love of your fellow man,” he says, swinging wildly at Wynonna, “and for me to live my life, you must eventually lose yours. Why delay the inevitable?”
Wynonna dances around Fasil, jabbing at him and generally tiring him out. She’s lighter, faster and more toned from a life spent outdoors, all sharp edges. She observes that he’s dressed in fine garb, not appropriate for the climate at all. A linen shirt with doublet, lightweight shoes and even an elaborate ruff. “What are you wearing anyway, Fasil, you dandy?” Wynonna asks, continuing to remain just out of range of Fasil’s blade, toying with him. “It’s freezing here, idiot,” she adds, noting the growing fatigue evident in Fasil’s movements.
Even as his body is cold and exhausted, Fasil’s will to win is strong and he thrusts his sword hard at Wynonna, forcing her to curse and fold inwards on herself to keep her guts inside, and reminding her that her life is at stake.
She can almost take pity on Fasil, Immortal like herself but not as strong as she, and wonders if maybe some Immortals ever succeed in just giving up...hiding out somewhere hoping never to be found...but she doesn’t dwell on the feelings as, seeing an opening, she reaches in and, almost too easily, strikes Fasil’s head from his neck. As the body falls limply to the ground, head rolling away, blue lightning strobes from the clear sky and lifts Fasil’s headless body into the air. Crackling blue energy streams out of Fasil’s neck and into Wynonna. Her arms are drawn upward, mouth ajar, eyes rolled back into her head as Fasil’s power enters her.
That night Wynonna cuts a slender line into her forearm, barely deep enough to hurt but definitely enough to scar. It joins three other lines representing her kills. Four Immortals are dead at Wynonna’s sword, and she doesn’t even know why.