Ælfrede strode restlessly. Sharp cold air struck pinpricks against her feverish flesh. Her husband, Hrothsted, still lay where he fell on the frosted ground.
She stopped and glared at the twisted copse before them. She clenched her fist and choked back a bitter sob. Drawing shallow ragged breaths, she forced herself forward. The fever made her vision swim as she stopped short of the twisted sickly elm that marked the bleak boundary.
Her pain meant nothing. Somewhere in that devil-damned woods of jotnar and trolls and svartaelfs, Hrodric fought the cause of the plague. Goodly Hrodric suffered the same fever, the same draining ache. Beautiful Hrodric, his lips were always smiling. Golden Hrodric, with bright green eyes and long pale hair, he was her only son.
So she paced in the cold, while the village lay palsied near their hearths. She paced until she only could crawl. She held up her head until the cold ground took it.
A bloody boot crushed the grass before her face.
“It is finished, Mother.”
His voice sounded pained. Ælfrede reached forward to comfort him with all that she had left. She smiled as he took her hand.