Synopsis: Nilitsa is an immortal along with Vasili and Iarina, representing Old East Slavic tribes' culture, heritage, and physical land. They have been invaded by a neighboring tribe. Nilitsa, like the others, is a young, dawning nation - For now, battle is much of what she knows.
Last line: Iarina drops Nilitsa’s hand as the smile slowly fades from her face. A conflict with a neighboring tribe only meant trouble. If they attacked, it meant that another force was oppressing and taking away their lands. The warriors of the tribe, not just the village, have been seemingly called upon to answer the call of battle. These are just regularities to Nilitsa now. Tribes come and go, shift boundaries, but the Krivichi, Nilitsa and Iarina’s own, must stay constant.
Nilitsa charges out the door, her leather boots hitting the cold grass with each step. The cold wind causes her to shiver violently, but she spits onto the ground and turns the corner on her heels. Waiting for her is a brown stallion with a long, wild mane, saddled simply as to provide the best mobility. Kicking herself upwards with her weapons in the air, Nilitsa slaps the reins and charges forth towards the site of battle. The air, tinged with the scent of blood, is already rampant with the sounds of sword against sword.
A metal tang drifts about her: She knows that smell. Battle used to terrify her, but now, it’s second nature. Nilitsa waits for the glory to come.
Drawing in a breath, she presses herself close to the body of her horse and peeks an eye over his head. Another horse whinnies not too far off. Nilitsa whispered to her own, comforts him, and continues. The lone first person she sees Nilitsa tramples. She directs the point of her spear upon the open, exposed skin of an enemy soldier's neck and slits his artery open. A scream rips from him, for Nilitsa has caught him in his unawareness, and she grips her spear tighter. She pretends not to be jarred by that inhuman noise as her horse rears back and she hangs onto him for dear life. To her back was a roar, a snap of wood and another man hitting the ground square in the back. The galloping begins to accelerate. She plunges herself further into battle with a whirl, a twist of her wrist, and a swift kick to the chin.
If they want her land, they will have to do better than this. She thinks too fast, for a sword meets hers, and a spear is mere inches from her head. Out of the blue, she slams the wooden shield into the spear, causing it to snap. The same sword comes again as she leans back onto the back of her horse to dodge it. As she was oressing her boots down onto the stirrups for balance, a blade came down onto her heel.
A familiar, pained voice rises out from the din as Nilitsa charges forward, spear and shield flanking her. She cries out as the realization of her pain hit her. Now, she is like the man that she killed, toppling off her horse. Attempting to cry back Vasili’s name, Nilitsa watches her stallion charge through the battlefield as she gets to her knees, shaking, and swings her spear in the next assailant's chest, gutting him, and collapsed back onto the dirt. If it weren't for her strength as an immortal with the power of her people, she would've never gotten back up. Rubbing grit from her eyes, she rolled under a rearing horse and aimed the point of her spear into its unarmed torso.
More shrieks. More shouts. She began to sprint regardless of the burning pain at her heel, gritting her teeth. Where was Vasili? Iarina? The Krivichi? Her horse?
Nilitsa sneaks gazes behind her to see, in the very distant beyonds. Her people clash with them, bright against brown cloths.
Suddenly, wooden piece knocks at Nilitsa’s back, nearly stealing away the breath away from her. She digs her heels into the dirt, curses, and stabs him as fast as she can. Use the land, Nilitsa remembers Iarina saying. The land is your advantage.
She grits her teeth and breaks out into another fast run, dodging blades, the onslaught of horse hooves, and her own men. A pine forest lines the bend of the clearing, the one that she had spent the early morning in. She knew the forest by heart; each tree, the texture of its bark, and the animals that skittered in and out as she would wind her way through it. If she took the battle there, that would give the Krivichi an advantage over the invading tribe. From her guesses and observations of their fighting style, they appear to be one of the Balts coming in from the west.
There is no guilt as she turns her head to check on the battlescape, the slow but gradual accumulation of unrecognizable bodies. Because of their courage and skill, she convinces herself that Vasili and Iarina will be alright. That, and the fighting will keep them all warm.
Over her head, the moon hangs ominously as Nilitsa whips around the first tree, slender as a needle, and enters the reaches of the forest. Slowly, her pace begins to take a toll on her. At every other length, she stops to grimace and whine in pain.
The lake faces the moon, and the river connects to the sea. The river connects to the open, uncharted sea. Noisily, a spear and shield drop dead onto the earth. Nilitsa squints, scanning her field of view beyond the span of the small river. Her sense of smell is rendered useless in the cold, so once again, she pants heavily and chases the discovery in the direction. Every step causes her ankle to shoot fire into her system. Occasionally, she knows, there are unlikely reinforcements from the far north. Nilitsa's pace has slowed to a brisk walk.
They call themselves the Víkingr, with their language’s guttural, cropped tones, the braided, wild, clean hair, and their eery, wintry paleness.