34 - My Lord

After a botched raid on a local lord kills her son and costs her her place in the tribe, a bandit warrior is forced to fend for herself in the wilderness. When she eventually stumbles across the young lord, himself forced away by his power-hungry uncle, rather than kill him, she tends for him and raises him to take back his lordship and get revenge.

KATLA is a warrior on an assassination mission. She’s a member of a band of ruffians seeking to infiltrate the estate of the local lord - a 13-year-old boy - and assassinate him, in accordance with a deal made with the boy’s power-hungry uncle.

They sneak their way through his estate, killing the few guards who notice them, until Katla’s son, FOLKI, accidentally lets a guard sound the alarm.

The fighting begins in earnest, but Katla leads a small team - including Folki, so they can keep an eye on him - away from the fighting and deeper into the lord’s mansion.

They find the lord, BRAND, left alone and nearly defenseless in a closet. Katla and the other bandits are busy fighting - it’s up to Folki to do the deed. But he can’t do it - Brand is just a kid, not even as old as Folki himself. Folki hesitates long enough that Brand flees out of a window.

The fighting is intense, such that only Katla is able to tear herself away to see what’s taking Folki so long. She gets back just in time to see Brand flee, and immediately intuits what happened. She swears, and tells Folki to tell everyone she did it - tell them she came back and told him to spare Brand.

They charge back to the fray and holler to leave. They lead the retreat and head back to their fort in the woods.

Once they’ve returned and heard Katla’s account of events, the gang unanimously agrees to kick Katla out - only letting her live out of respect for her past accomplishments, tinged with a little bit of fear. Folki refuses to so much as look at her - he (and Katla) both know that, as her son, he needs to take a hard stance if he wants to make it in the group.

Katla begs them to let her stay - she’s known too well in town, they won’t have her either. They’re sentencing her to die alone in the woods. But they don’t budge - if she ever tries to return, they’ll kill her. She reluctantly leaves.

Katla makes her way to town, where she’s immediately recognized and attacked. She escapes and flees into the woods.

Alone and with little to her name, Katla does what she can to make a life for herself. She builds a small hut in the woods, sets several hunting traps, even establishes a small trading post along an important road to trade pelts with travelers who won’t recognize her.

Once, some of her old gang comes to rob her trading post before they realize she owns it. They try to rob her anyway, but she cows them into leaving her alone - “You can kill me, aye, but I’ll send at least two of you down to hell before me, and you know it.”

A year passes, and she begins to make peace with her new life. She has a couple not-quite-friends who frequent her trading post, she sets her hut in the woods up with some simple luxuries. She enjoys her time alone in the quiet. If she had more companionship, it would honestly be even better than it was in the days when she had to steal for a living.

One day, she’s checking her traps and finds the former lord Brand caught in one. His hair is long and unkempt, and he recoils in fear at her sight. He’s almost feral. She frees him from the trap, and with a good degree of coaxing, leads him back to her hut in the woods.

Brand is malnourished, covered in scratches and one or two rather deep cuts, sick, and generally in a bad way. Folki bandages his wounds and gets him fed, and though he’s still terrified, he falls asleep.

As he sleeps, Katla considers her options. If she brings his head to the bandits, she may have a shot at being allowed back in.

She grabs her axe, heads inside to do the deed, but seeing him asleep, and so pitiful besides, she can’t bring herself to do it. She swears at herself so loudly she wakes him, and he cringes back in fear. She drops the axe and sings him back to sleep.

It takes several weeks before he’s fully back to health, but he’s still not really speaking. Even without speaking, though, he’s definitely cognizant. She talks to him, and he understands.

Katla explains that she could take him back to town, but she couldn’t go with him - the townsfolk would likely kill her, and his uncle would even if they wouldn’t. Also, if he did go back to town, his uncle would probably take another opportunity to kill him; it isn’t safe for him there. But it’s his choice.

He stays with her, and she teaches him trapping and basic crafts. They discover he has a talent for archery, and is frequently able to hunt for them. He starts to speak, if slowly, and childlike.

At one point, Katla accidentally calls him Folki. It brings up painful memories, but she answers some of Brand’s questions about her old life. She finally shares the full details of their mission, how they were hired by his uncle with payment of both gold, and reduced oversight of the roads allowing for easier banditry.

It hits Katla how much Brand’s uncle is hurting people. She trades with merchants who’ve been hit by bandits frequently. She’s had one or two that she considers friends die to bandits. She realizes how messed up the situation is.

She starts talking to Brand about the possibility of going back, but Brand won't hear of it. He’s terrified of his uncle, and perfectly happy here. He’s content just to spend his life here with Katla, hunting and trading.

Katla doesn’t press the issue. Life goes on.

One day, Brand mans the trading post alone, when a pair of merchants running from bandits crests the hill. They run to him for shelter; the bandits circle the post.

The bandits snarl at Brand - he claims protection by means of Katla, but they laugh at him - Katla’s not here. They leave Katla alone out of fear of her skill, not respect. Moreover, they know Katla better than he does - they know that they could kill Brand right now and she’d rather protect herself than seek revenge.

Brand draws his sword, and the leader of the raiding party tells one of the bandits in particular to “Deal with it. Prove yourself.” It’s Folki.

Folki squares off against Brand. It could go either way at first, but Folki soon demonstrates greater skill and resolve. He disarms Brand and raises his axe to deliver the killing blow.

An arrow pierces his throat. Katla has arrived. She SCREAMS at what she’s just done, but it doesn’t stop her from loosing two more arrows - one killing a second bandit, the third merely wounding one. The surviving bandits flee, swearing revenge.

Katla contains her emotions long enough to help Brand escort the wounded merchants to their hut in the woods and bandage their wounds and Brand’s. In the evening, she goes back alone to collect Folki’s corpse, and takes it alone into the woods to bury. She wails and screams as she does so - in grief, and in rage.

She returns to Brand with something of an ultimatum. She’s going to go bandit hunting. She’s not seeking death, but she’s not running from it, and knows it’s more likely than not. He can come with her if he wants, or he can stay here, but this is what’s happening.

Brand considers, but ultimately decides to take a divergent path - now that he’s seen firsthand the effect his uncle is having, he’s going to go kill his uncle and reclaim his place as lord.

They both take several days gathering supplies and crafting traps and weapons, as well as ensuring the wounded merchants are in good enough condition to travel. The merchants agree to take Brand with them to the city, where a good cover story, along with his growth and facial hair may just allow him to go unnoticed among most of the populace.

Katla and Brand share a solemn goodbye. Even on the off chance that one of them survives, they know the other likely won’t. They go their separate ways - Katla deep into the woods, and Brand back towards his people.

The bandits have a brief meeting to discuss two of their number (a total of fifteen after Folki and the other died) disappearing, both while on lone hunts. BERNARD, Katla’s (once) longtime companion, suspects it’s her, and is convincing enough that the bandits agree to go check out her merchant post.

Brand arrives in town, and his disguise fails utterly. He’s recognized immediately. The people are cautious - they’re happy he’s back, but afraid of his uncle NEIL. There’s an odd mix of cheer over Brand’s safe return, and fear from those who know Neil’s reaction won’t be great.

Uncle Neil, is not thrilled.

Meanwhile, Bernard leads three other bandits to Katla’s trade post, and finds her sitting, apparently waiting for them. Bernard is cautious, but approaches her alone to talk. He doesn’t even have to ask - she tells him that she killed the bandits, and that she gave them a good burial, in the hopes that whenever they manage to kill her, they’ll return the favor.

Bernard is upset - he’d just convinced the other bandits not to retaliate, and now she’s forced the issue. Why couldn’t they just leave each other alone? Katla tells him she’s seen too much of the other side now. She’s not doing this to punish them, she’s doing this to punish herself. Death is all that any of them deserve.

Bernard attacks her, and she fights back.

Back in town, Brand confronts his uncle Neil in front of the town, publically calling him out, telling the townsfolk his crimes. Neil is furious, and attacks Brand in front of everyone for “spewing such lies,” especially after abandoning his people for so long. If he’s been alive all this time, why only come back now?

Neil draws his sword, feigning supreme upset over being so viciously slandered - combat is the only answer for it. The people protest (a little); Neil is significantly bigger and stronger than Brand, a duel wouldn’t be fair, but to everyone’s surprise, Brand agrees. Neil starts dictating the terms of the duel - it’ll be at sundown, in the village square; the sword will be-

Before he can finish, Brand has already drawn his sword and charged. He cuts his uncle down before his uncle can react. The town is stunned, nobody is sure what to do. He turns to them, and tells them that he’s going to go hunt down the bandits who’ve been plaguing them, now. Anybody who wants to join him can.

He and a dozen men ride past Katla’s trading post. There’s lots of blood, but no bodies; whoever won kept their word about burying the dead. Brand tracks the survivor into the woods, towards the bandits’ lair.

They arrive to find a single bandit, all alone, who immediately surrenders. He explains that, after Katla killed so many of them, and told them that Brand was going to kill Neil, the survivors left for greener pastures. They won’t be back. Brand asks where Katla is now, and the bandit just points deeper into the woods.

They find a gravely wounded Bernard finishing digging an empty grave, next to several small burial mounds. Brand asks where Katla is. Bernard points to one of the graves, then requests that after he dies, they finish burying him; he already dug his grave. Brand promises he will. Bernard asks him for a quick death, which Brand grants him.

The other villagers go back to loot what’s left of the bandit camp, while Brand buries Bernard.