Freya’s cottage was easy to find – black and squat as a toad with a beetling turf roof and runes painted in spidery white around the door.
As we drew near, the clean smells of lake water and freshly caught herring were swallowed by others – burnt bone; rotten meat; urine strong enough to make me squint.
Fell dropped back a step, clamping a hand to his nose. He was too young to remember that same stench in our own village, but still fear clouded his eyes.
His brother Kari – older by five years, taller by a foot – twitched but kept pace with me. He remembered.
At the door Kari nodded – as the eldest to bear a loss this was my privilege, my burden. The wood shuddered under my fist.
‘Come out, witch,’ I called. ‘It’s time.’
Soon there would be chains and rising lake water and an end to the Evil.
On a little wander I found this cottage and couldn’t help but be reminded of a fairy tale – a witch’s cottage, perhaps . A quick internet search and I discovered Norse witches – the vǫlur – who might travel from village to village wherever they were called upon and could control a man’s movements in battle. The vǫlur were not always beneficial and after Christianisation, practitioners could be executed.