"Welcome to New Asgard! Enjoy your sta-"
Halvard's jaw dropped.
"Oh my gosh!" squealed Halvard. "You have to come and tell us about your adventures! Let's get you some grog once I'm off of work! I'll invite everyone!"
"Calm down, Halvard," said Ingrid with a serene smile on her face. "I need a little time to process it all myself. " That was a lie; everything was perfectly clear in Ingrid's mind. She just didn't think the townspeople could stomach her stories. Everyone here had seen a little violence; this was New Asgard, after all, the Viking Reconstruction Project's (Henceforth known as VRP) capital. The children were told gory stories and there were plenty of duels. War-filled tales of gods that were once believed in were told to men with bellyfuls of mead. This place thrived on concepts like courage and honor, traits embodied by the warriors of old. But there hadn't been a real war since 2094, and that was 96 years ago. Oh sure, there were little battles, but those were few and far between. Most problems these days were solved by talking.
But when those battles came, the best and brightest from VRP-run cities would finally let their swords and axes and whatnot taste blood (Tanks, bombs and larger guns had been banned in 2097 because they actually caused more deaths than smaller and more old-fashioned equipment). These people came home heroes, and had the respect and captivation of the whole town. They had fought, and by extension had earned the town's admiration.
Ingrid worked pretty hard. She had excellent control over her axe and bow and her wits were fairly sharp. She was by all means an amazing fighter, but she always fell short of being selected. It didn't bother her- she simply practiced more.
Despite having never done battle, she was still adored by the whole town. Every person wanted to be her friend, and Ingrid befriended all of them. It should have made her happy, but… she just felt empty. She longed to go out in the world, to at least do battle once. And when that day came, she was elated. But what happened after was more than she could have dreamed of.
Ingrid turned the memories over in her head, going over every detail of every second as she walked home. She was deaf to the whispers of the city-folk, having tuned everything else out. Until someone tapped at her shoulder.
She turned over and slapped that person in the face with the back of her hand. It was the kind of slap that could've broken a nose if carried out with the precision that Ingrid had learned in her adventures. Luckily, she stopped short of full force and simply caused a bit of redness.
"I'm so sorry," said Ingrid. "It's my reflexes, just stuff I had to learn to survive." A familiar face looked up at her. "Oh, little Sven, didn't mean to hurt you." It was her friend Svana's younger brother. "Wow, you've grown," she added.
"It's okay," he said. "Just be more careful."
Soon all of the people around her were asking question after question, leaving Ingrid with absolutely no room. Finally Svana, the only person in town Ingrid could say she felt a real emotional connection to, made her way to the front of the crowd. "STOP!" she yelled. "GIVE A LADY HER ROOM!"
The crowd began to thin after the surprise announcement. As people left, grumbling about how they were going to snag her tomorrow, Svana too started to slink away. "No," said Ingrid, grabbing her wrist. "I need to talk to you about something."
"I assumed that I should give you your space, but, okay then," she replied, not resisting in the slightest as she was dragged in the direction of Ingrid's house. They soon arrived at the house in question, and it was not long before they were sitting in Ingrid's bedroom.
"I have a confession to make," said Ingrid forcefully.
"Okay," said Svana. "Go ahead."
"I don't like being popular."
Ingrid sighed. "I could never place my finger on it before I left, but I have it now. I just never felt like I was anyone's friend. Other than you, everyone in this city feels like a buzzing fly that I have to play nice with to make them go away. No one ever asks about me, they just make small talk and act like I'm some sort of celebrity and it drove me up the wall for the longest time… but when I was gone, I forged real bonds. I met real warriors. And now everything here feels so fake that I just want to go to bed and wake up back in the wilds."
Svana looked as if she was about to cry. "Other than you, I said."
"Oh, right," she replied. "But why are you telling me this?"
"Well I kind of wanted you to help me tell the truth to everyone in New Asgard- At least this sector. But also, I was wondering… well, I don't think I can stay here very long. I've seen the world and it's calling me back. What I'm trying to say is, well, I'd be honored if you came with me."
Svana looked a bit taken aback. "And I'd be honored to go with you, but I don't think I'd last very long. I only know the basics of handling the sword, and- and I don't know if my skills as an herbalist would come in handy."
Ingrid chuckled a bit. "Your skills would most definitely come in handy! I could use someone crafting potions out there. It's difficult, yes, but it's an amazing experience. There's so much I'd love to show you! Please come."
Svana scratched her head thoughtfully for a second. "I'll sleep on it," she said. "It's getting a bit late, I have to cook dinner for my mother and Sven."
"All right," said Ingrid. "You've got time to think about it." The two friends embraced each other before Svana left, leaving Ingrid alone in the house. It wasn't until a fair bit of wistful stargazing that Ingrid could fall asleep, but it was at that moment that she had realized how she had missed the soft feeling of an actual bed.