Hospitality

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A single foot, fur-clad against the outside elements, crossed the threshold.

The second foot, likewise insulated against the frozen ground, hesitated to cross the boundary.

Snow pressed around the bundled figure in the doorway, blowing into the hearth-room of the ancient keep.  The brutal winter wind teased the glowering flames in the fireplace, setting spidery shadows dancing along the thick stone walls, yet the gale blowing at her back was nothing compared to the dire stories being shouted at her from the dim hall.

Slowly, deliberately, she slid her recalcitrant limb through the doorway at the urging of a tiny form of indeterminate gender, waiting to slam the heavy wood door against the raging blizzard.

**THUD**

With the surcease of howling storm winds and punishing ice crystals, she stood, dripping slush, and listened to the stones of the hearth.  They spoke eloquently (as only stones can) of the recent past they had witnessed.

It sang to her ears only, using the tongues of flame burning solemnly above the grate.  As it whispered its dark tale, it highlighted the scattered bits of evidence around the room using the shadows cast –  a filament of iron embedded in the hard-backed chair.  The faint outline of a hastily-scrubbed pool of fluid on the flagstones.  Flakes of ash, not of wooden origin, scattered about the floor.  As damning as these small vignettes were – they paled in comparison to the single spot of scarlet overlooked on the hearthstone itself.

A chair, to the opposite end of the hall, it’s seat enshrouded in shadow the flames light feared to touch, took a deep breath, speaking the ancient rite in the Master’s own thin, reedy voice…

“Enter and be well by my fire on this miserable night, stranger.”

Frigg dropped her snow-covered cloak on the flagstones, preparing for her ‘work.’  The stains of false Hospitality would be cleansed by fire and blood.

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