The heart of the eternal

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In joy and bliss

Ahravan had felt a surge of almost explosive relief when he was told that the caravan was approaching the city, he had to sit down and thank every deity he knew of. Rhawan would be there soon, he wouldn’t be alone anymore. He started shouting orders, everything was to be prepared and he had to make sure that his bride to be was welcomed in the best manner possible. The shamans started preparing the wedding ceremonies and the cooks started to prepare food for the great days to come, the entire city had become a buzz of activity. Ahravan felt a bit uncertain, he was looking forward to seeing Rhawan again, he had missed his sworn brother a lot and he just prayed that the journey had been an uneventful one. He would speak to Rhawan as soon as they arrived and find out more about his bride to be. He felt a bit like he was about to take a dive into dark waters without knowing how deep it was, it wasn’t a good feeling at all. He made sure that a hut was ready for the girl and then he tried to focus upon his normal duties but found that it was very hard. In just a few days time he would be a husband again, the question was wether or not she would be a good wife.

The riders said the caravan would reach the city the next day and he ordered the ceremony to start the day after that, there was no point in delaying anything and he wanted this over with, so he could go on with his job. The rumours and the strange deaths had truly upset him and he wondered if this somehow could mean that more trouble was coming. The shamans had placed spells around the city now and they did make people feel more safe but they couldn’t all just huddle together within its perimeter Things had to be done and he didn’t want to risk the lives of his people.

He wouldn’t be allowed to see his bride the last day before the wedding according to the customs and this meant that he wasn’t going to meet her until their wedding. It didn’t really matter that much for he wouldn’t be able to change his mind and this was inevitable so why worry about it? He didn’t get much sleep that night, not that he needed to sleep but the last days had been stressful and he had a nagging feeling of something being wrong. The three humans who had arrived had been less than honest, he just felt it and he wanted to find out what they were hiding but how? He couldn’t push them into telling him anything and he just hoped that their secret wasn’t a dark one.

He did wake up to a city which was in the middle of the preparations, people were running around everywhere and the atmosphere was joyful. He managed to smile as he met Laupir outside of his hut, the man did bow his head and he was grinning from one ear to the other. “She is gonna arrive today”

Ahravan did nod and swallowed hard, it had finally become real to him, the fact that he was to get married yet again. His gut felt heavy and he wished that he could run away, seek shelter somewhere. But the oracle had spoken and he knew that there was no way around it. The caravan wouldn’t arrive until late in the afternoon so he went and took one of his horses for a swift ride before he sat down and discussed the situation with the clan leaders. Some said that the monsters had been seen coming down from the mountains again and the sightings of demons did make many scared. But the wedding did raise people’s spirits a lot and Ahravan was glad that was the case, everybody needed something good to think about now, something which could make them forget the fears for a while. He had prepared the gifts he was to give his new wife and the seamstresses were ready too, she would be treated like a queen for sure. The day felt like a year, it was so long and when the first shouts were heard Ahravan had almost fallen asleep due to sheer boredom. The caravan was approaching the city and he went out of the hut and made sure that he was properly clad and that he was ready to receive the group he had sent out months ago.

Rhawan came riding towards him at the front of the group, he was smiling from one ear to the next and Ahravan let out a sigh of relief, his si’ish was alright, then things were good. He had truly missed Rawan’s odd humor and mischief and he saw that the wagons were many and the people he had sent out were all there. Good, they hadn’t encountered any dangers then. Rhawan did dismount the horse he rode and went over, with calm dignity but Ahravan could see that his eyes were shining. Rhawan did hug him, a swift but fierce hug which said a lot and Ahravan whispered. “Oh by the deities, I have missed you!”

Rhawan did grin, he was clearly moved. “I have missed you too, but now I am back, and I have so much to tell you!”

Ahravan did put a hand behind Rhawan’s strong back and guided him into the hut, the others there would help the women place the girl in her hut and prepare for the next day. “Come, tell me everything”

Rhawan did seem eager. “Oh Ahravan, it has been a strange journey for sure but we did find the girl and we have brought her with us. She is ready to be your wife brother, and she has been prepared well”

Ahravan did nod. “Her family didn’t protest?”

Rhawan shook his head. “No, but we did encounter some problems, a local man also wanted her and tried to kill her. We feared that he would try to pursue her. A girl from the village did join us, fleeing from the same man, her brother. He had committed a most horrendous crime and now she is being guarded by Ahnriel and Nefhriel and Floth’bha”

Ahravan did frown. “What crime are you talking about?”

Rhawan did take a deep breath. “She is with child brother, and her own brother is the father. He did rape her”

Ahravan had to blink twice. “Are you serious?”

Rhawan did nod. “Yes, she is…very traumatized but we all hope the shamans can help her overcome it. “

Ahravan did almost growl. “Well, if that so called brother does show up here his life is mine, I do not accept such violence against females”

Rhawan did smile, his eyes were soft. “I know you don’t my brother”

Ahravan did pour some wine and let Rhawan have one of the cups. “So, what is she like? My wife to be?”

Rhawan did wet his lips. “She…her name is Wenja, and she is a shepherd’s daughter. She is sweet and gentle and very innocent, knows little of the world. We have tried to teach her as much as possible during our journey”

Ahravan did hear the tremble in Rhawan’s voice, saw that his si’ish did look down and he immediately realized what it was about. “Oh Rhawan, you have fallen for her?”

Rhawan did bite his lower lip. “I…I cannot lie to you brother, I…I love her!”

He stared at Ahravan with wild eyes. “But I haven’t dishonoured you, she is untouched, I swear. You are the one to claim her maidenhead.”

Ahravan had to smile, a somewhat sad smile. “Oh Rhawan, I would never distrust you, and believe me, her innocence means little to me. What does she feel?”

Rhawan swallowed hard. “I don’t know, she likes me, but…she haven’t opened her heart to me, as far as I know”

Ahravan did sigh. “So she is sweet, and beautiful I guess?”

Rhawan would have blushed if it hadn’t been for his dark skin. “Like the sun and the moon brother, you will…you will find her beauty to be iresistable.”

Ahravan pulled Rhawan closer again. “And you have made sure that she is ready for this?”

Rhawan did nod vigorously. “Sefa has done a good job, she is ready for you”

The Ath’ir did cock his head. “And what about you? Does she know what we share? Is she ready for you as well?”

Rhawan did look down at the floor. “Yes, I think so, if you…if you are willing to share her then….my heart would soar knowing she can be mine as well”

Ahravan did push some stray locks of dark hair out of Rhawan’s eyes. “I am willing to share her brother, the first nights are mine but then I will allow you to join us, if she accepts you that is”

Rhawan swallowed hard. “I…thank you!”

Ahravan leaned in closer. “I have missed you so much, will you stay with me tonight?”

Rhawan did nod and his eyes got softer. “Yes, whatever you say, I am yours and you know it”

Ahravan smiled and the smile was a teasing one. The world suddenly felt good again, his si’ish was there and the girl was apparently a gem. He felt that some of his worries did dissipate there and then. “Then go and have a bath and return to me soon, I have hungered for your touch”

Rhawan did shudder visibly. “And I for your, I will hurry”

Ahravan did kiss Rhawan gently and the dark skinned warrior did answer the kiss with glowing passion, he was almost panting when they broke apart. Ahravan was glad Rhawan had agreed, he didn’t want to spend this night alone.

Wenja had been shocked by the size of Ohtanar, she had sort of imagined a small village, like the one she came from but this was indeed a city. There were literally hundreds of huts and tents and people everywhere and she felt nervous right away. What if people here didn’t like her? Sefa told her to stay in the wagon until she was told to leave it and they drove up to a very large and new hut which had to have been built recently. Sefa did beam with joy. “This hut is gonna be yours from now on, your private home.”

The others had gathered too and Imh had already carried several crates of stuff into the hut. Sefa did throw a thick veil over Wenja. “Come now, it isn’t custom for the people to see their new queen until the ceremony starts tomorrow”

Wenja did cringe. “Already?”

Sefa did nod. “Yes, no point in waiting is there? Oh this is gonna be so wonderful”

Wenja felt nervous again and she kept her head low as Sefa did open the door, the hut was large and divided into several rooms and Theka and Nefhriel had already started to pour water into a huge tub placed in one of them. Wenja felt a bit sweaty so a bath would be wonderful. Imh was preparing a meal and as Wenja sat there and felt more and more as if reality finally was sinking in a couple of women entered the hut and they did bow deeply. “We are your seamstresses my lady, we are here to take your measurements”

Wenja had to stand up as the women swiftly did measure her body and they were smiling and seemed to be very friendly so she felt a wee bit better. It was very clear that she would be properly clad when she was to meet her husband to be the next day. Prina had been placed in a room of her own, she just laid on the bed and acted like a doll and Theka was forcing her to eat some, the old woman could be very adamant when she wanted to. Wenja didn’t know what would happen to Prina now, Nefhriel would speak to the shamans the next day, everybody hoped that they could help her come to her senses again.

Wenja was bathed and Sefa did massage her with oils and now her hair was wrapped in linen soaked with ointments and when it was washed out Nefhriel did braid her hair in many tiny braids to give it a wavy look. Her nails were filed and her entire body checked for excess body hair and then Sefa did paint her feet and hands with some sort of thick paste which would leave delicate patterns in her skin when it dried. Sefa did leave the hut for a short while and returned with some boxes she proclaimed contained the jewellery Wenja was to wear the next day and Wenja felt overwhelmed. It was really happening and she sort of longed to go back to before, to the journey. She had gotten used to that, now everything changed once more and she was so agitated Sefa did give her something to sleep on. Without it she would spend the night awake and writhing around and everybody said she had to sleep now, and gather her strength for the next day. After all, it would be the first of three wedding days and among the most important days of her life.

Ahravan and Rhawan ended up in Ahravan’s bedroom rather fast, they had missed each other and before long they were naked and giving in to their longing. The bond between them was very strong and Rhawan was only submissive when with Ahravan, he would never allow another male to mount him but he did trust Ahravan and loved him dearly. He was gasping with both pleasure and pain and Ahravan panted and knew he wouldn’t last very long this time. He had waited for too long for his si’ish touch and as he reached his climax he heard Rhawan groan and felt him shudder in the same rhythm as himself. It sent surges of bliss through him, they were together again, Ahravan felt much stronger already, more confident. Rhawan did collapse with Ahravan on top of him and both were covered with sweat and other fluids. Ahravan did kiss Rhawan’s sweaty neck and slid off the bed, he felt so much better now, like he was ready to do anything really. Rhawan did sigh and his eyelids did look heavy, he was ready to go to sleep and Ahravan did kiss him on the shoulder. “Just sleep my light, I will go for a swift walk. I need some air”

Rhawan did just mumble and his eyes did slide shut, he was asleep right away and Ahravan felt a surge of intense tenderness and love. Rhawan was more dear to him than anyone else and he did doubt that this girl would be able to take his place in any way. But he was curious and he got some clothes on again and sauntered out of the hut. He hesitated for a moment, then he did walk towards the hut where his future wife was kept and he knew that she had to be asleep by now. He did enter quietly and Sefa was sitting there working on some garments, she gasped and got up when he came inn, courtsied and kept her eyes on the ground. “You don’t have to do that for me dear, you know that.”

Sefa nodded. “You are here to see her? It is against the customs but…”

Ahravan nodded. “I know, but I need to see her just once, why I don’t know”

Sefa smiled and he saw that Theka and Nefhriel were sitting on the floor, both asleep. Imh was nowhere to be seen and neither were Floth’bha. The dark haired girl was whispering. “She is very nervous my lord, but she is strong, and she will be a good spouse for you. I have trained her well, she won’t try to resist you in any way”

Ahravan made a grimace. “Why would she try to resist me?”

Sefa shrugged. “She is a village girl, from the inner valleys. To her marriage was something only men enjoy until we came. Rhawan has showed her how to enjoy a male body and I have taught her all I know. She is a maiden still but no longer ignorant”

Ahravan guessed that this was good. “There was a girl coming with her?”

Sefa nodded. “Yes, Prina, a poor young thing, we are worried for her sanity, and the wellbeing of her and her child”

Ahravan sighed. “Make sure she has all the care she needs, such things are tragic.”

Sefa did get up, gracefully. “Yes my lord. If you will follow me?”

They entered the room where Wenja slept on a rather large bed and Ahravan did blink in disbelief. She was…he couldn’t compare her with any other woman he had met before, such elegance and such a radiant being. Her hair was very long and so shiny and the colour…Like ripe berries, dark and full and he suddenly longed to run his hands through it, to feel its silky weight. He thought to himself that this wouldn’t be so bad after all, she was ravishing and knowing that Rhawan did love her told him she was worthy of his affection. The wedding night would be a hot one for sure, he saw the shape of her under the blankets and suddenly he felt that he could have taken her there and then, even if he had been with Rhawan just moments ago. The idea of those long strong legs wrapped around his waist did send his heart racing and he swallowed and smiled at Sefa. “I am very glad you have prepared her, she is gorgeous and the dream of any male for sure. The seamstresses will bring her clothes at dawn, the ceremony starts when the sun reached zenith so make sure she has eaten well and is ready for a long day”

Sefa nodded and grinned. “We all love her Ahravan, she is such a kind soul. You will soon discover that too”

He nodded and turned around, there was little doubt that Rhawan had fallen like a ton of bricks for Ahravan did feel the attraction too. He was so tightly bonded to his si’ish some feelings were bound to pour over no matter what they did. He returned to the hut and went to bed after having washed and eaten some bread. The next day would be one of splendour for sure, and excitement. For the first time in a long while he did look forward to waking up to a new day.

Wenja did wake up in a state of confusion, for the last days she had slept in a wagon which was on the move so this hut which didn’t move felt just odd for some reason. Then she did realize what was going on and she felt her heart starting to race and her palms became sweaty. It was the day, the day she had both dreaded and looked forwards to for such a long time. Sefa was already up, she had gotten the fire going and the huge stone oven did send out a pleasant heat already. Imh was busy making a huge breakfast and Theka and Nefhriel was in Prina’s room, trying to prepare her for the day. Wenja had slept way longer than normal and felt a bit dizzy due to this but her sleepiness did dissipate as Sefa did hand her a cup of something very warm. It was some sort of blackish liquid and it had a pleasant but strong odour. “What is this?”

Sefa grinned. “Something few can afford, it is made from the crushed beans of a plant which grows far off to the south, it does invigorate you and keeps you awake. The Ath’ir loves it by the way”

Wenja did sniff the drink, it did look a bit mysterious but she did take a small sip and the taste did surprise her, it was a bit bitter but not bad at all and she did feel a pleasant warmth spreading through her body. Imh had made her a bowl of porridge and some bread with cheese and Wenja sat down by the table to eat. She saw now that all the furniture there could be taken apart for transport rather easily, even the bed and the stove and the walls of the hut were thin and almost transparent in the daylight. Light entered the hut through windows in the roof, and they did appear to be some sort of thin membrane. Sefa saw her look of wonder and grinned. “It is the bag foals and other animals are born in, we gather it after the birth and dry it and then several are stitched together. It is very strong material whence it is dry”

Wenja nodded and admired the embroideries which decorated almost everything there, this people was very fond of colours for sure, and abstract patterns. When she had finished eating she got a huge glass of milk and Sefa did pour some wine into a small glass and grinned at her. “Here, for good luck. They will soon come to make you pretty”

Wenja did take a deep breath and tossed the wine back, it was strong and burned her throat but it did make her feel a wee bit more bold. After all, her husband to be wasn’t allowed to sleep with her until the last night and she just prayed that she would like him and that he would accept her as she was. Theka and Sefa started unbraiding her hair and they did brush it very gently so the curls and waves didn’t go out, then they started rebraiding some locks and gathered it all with ribbons made from what had to be velvet in a deep green colour. They then added gold chain and gems to it and Wenja did feel a bit odd, she wasn’t used to such luxury at all. The the women from the night before entered again, carrying huge bags and now Wenja was told to stand on a low box while she was being dressed. The entire outfit did take half an hour to put on, much because the two women couldn’t agree on which dress she was to wear, and how to decorate it. But at the end she was put into a dress made from sheer green silk with golden embroideries and it was rather simple in shape and yet not for there were just so many tiny details on it. Wenja felt very self-conscious, she had never worn anything that elaborate before and she whished that Sina and her father could have seen her now, she had changed so much during these weeks on the road.

The women did carry a huge mirror into the tent and Wenja was shocked, with the dress and the hair and all the gold and some make up she did look…like something out of a fairytale. It wasn’t her, not really. She got a pair of high heeled boots on and Sefa did attach several small amulets to her underskirts. It was supposed to ward off evil spirits,Wenja could recall having heard of a similar custom back home so that wasn’t all that strange at all. Theka was a bit disappointed, Prina refused to leave the hut and even though that fact didn’t surprise them at all it still didn’t sit well with Theka. Prina had to get out there eventually and start living again, being hidden inside for the rest of her pregnancy would only harm her. Sefa told Theka to forget about it for these three days, they could worry about Prina afterwards, now it was Wenja’s grand days and they shouldn’t be ruined by Prina, no matter how tragic her case was.

They heard that people were gathering outside and Wenja felt a lump in her throat, created by sheer nervousness. She had to really fight her instinctive need to hide and Sefa did sigh and gave her even more wine to calm her nerves. Finally everything was ready, Sefa was to walk beside her and Nefhriel and Theka would follow suit, it made her feel a wee bit more brave. They were to walk through the city to a place near the centre of it where the shamans would be waiting to give their blessings and then there would be partying and feasting for the rest of the day. Wenja was afraid she would make a fool of herself, she had learned a lot about the language now and she did regard herself as relatively fluent but yet she had her doubts. Her vocabulary wasn’t that large and she knew that Ahravan didn’t speak the language she had grown up with at all. It was gonna be a challenge. One of Ahravan’s warriors did enter the hut and nodded with a wide smile. “It is ready, we are awaiting our new Eth’ir.”

Sefa did pet Wenja on her cheek. “Go on dear, hold your head up high, smile. You will win their hearts for sure”

Wenja managed to lift her head but her lips felt stiff and then Sefa did tickle her mercilessly under her armpits where she was very ticklish. That made her laugh and then Sefa just pushed her out of the door. The bright light did stun her for a moment but Sefa did sort of guide her forth and she yipped and had to walk, one step after the other until the small group were heading in the right direction. She felt like an animal at an auction, there were eyes on her everywhere. Everybody seemed to have put on their finery and the kids were peeping out from behind their parents in wide eyes curiosity. Wenja was panting, only Sefa’s warm hand did prevent her from bolting like a frightened horse and she could hear her heart thundering like a herd of horses over a plain. They walked in silent dignity towards the ceremonial plaza and everywhere the citizens of Ohtanar did throw some sorts of seeds onto the group. Some did also place pieces of cloth on the ground in front of Wenja so she had to step on them and she tried to do as she had been told, hold her head up high and smile.

Everybody there were so pretty, so healty and their clothes were so nice. She felt less like a over bedazzled piece of jewellery and more like a person when she did realize that she wasn’t wearing anything the other women weren’t using as well. The open area was approaching and there were seats places everywhere, and a sort of alter with several people standing there in silent patience. It had to be shamans for they all wore these very elaborate costumes made from animal hide and their skin was covered with paint and tattoos. They did look wild and even the friendly expressions within their eyes didn’t change her nervous reaction to seeing them.

Then she did spot Rhawan, he did stand next to one of the shamans and he was wearing this lovely bright blue outfit which made him look so dark and so gorgeous. Sefa let out a sigh of admiration and Wenja had to admit that he did look stunning. But he wasn’t her groom and she held her breath as Sefa did guide her the last stretch up to the altar. Ahravan would come when she was in place and now they heard the sound of several voices cheering and some were hollering and shouting like mad. It was tradition, the groom was taken to the altar by his best friends and they would make a racket to spook off any evil spirits. Wenja had to gasp, he was really taller than Rhawan. Not by much but so much it was noticeable and she felt faint for a second. Ahravan was very different from Rhawan, the dark skinned eternal was boyish and beautiful and he had a sort of youthful energy which was so charming. Ahravan was older, his energy was one of wisdom and strength and he was also beautiful but in a slightly more masculine manner, He did look a bit more rough than Rhawan, his features were not as even and his body stockier and more muscular and yet he was also elegant and slender. She held her breath, his skin was dark like she had been told, but not black like Rhawan’s. It was more like leather and his eyes were so green it did look unnatural, it was a piercing colour and it made his gaze hypnotic. The hair was long as on all the males there and reached his knees and it had a wonderful deep golden tone with a hint of red in it. She had to admit that he did look angelic, and also a bit intimidating. He simply wasn’t human and now she really did notice the differences between the eternal and the humans there.

Ahravan could be seen moving his lips a bit, as if he was whispering something and his eyes got large as he saw her, he raised his right hand and placed it above his heart, bowed his head. Sefa did push Wenja forwards a bit so she stood next to him and Wenja had to wet her lips. She was so much shorter than him, she barely reached the middle of his chest! Oh by every God, this was akward to say the least. Sefa did wink at her and stepped back and now Wenja had to remember it all, and try to remain calm. Ahravan did bow even deeper and she shuddered when she heard his voice, deep and soft. “I am most honoured Wenja, and you are an amazingly brave woman”

She just managed to smile but felt terrified again, what if she did screw this up. There were hundreds of people watching her and even though most seemed to be very friendly and even a bit taken by her appeareance she felt insecure. She stared straight ahead as the shamans started to chant their initial blessings, she didn’t understand a word they were saying and it did sound very arcaic but the crowd was chanting along and she felt the hypnotic rhythm of the chant. Now Ahravan took her hand, it almost disappeared completely within his large worn one and she was a bit surprised by how warm his skin was and how gently he held her. The shamans kept chanting for a while, then they grasped these small pots of wine and water and poured it out around the two, slowly in circles. Ahravan was smiling at her, his eyes were gentle, more calm than those of Rhawan and they held a sort of melancholy she now knew was because of his great age. He had seen so much and for a moment she did pity him, why she didn’t really know.

One of the shamans, a woman, tied a sort of string around their hands and now they had to walk around in a circle, not letting go of each other at all. Ahravan was very careful not to move to fast and she was allowed to find her natural pace so she managed to do this without losing her dignity at all. Then another of the shamans did pour wine over the string before he cut it and threw it onto an open fire. Everybody cheered and Wenja knew that this was it, the first part of the wedding ceremony was done. The shaman did grin from one ear to the other and clapped. “Be blessed and be fruitful, now you may kiss your bride my liege”

Wenja swallowed hard as Ahravan did bow down very slowly and planted a gentle kiss on her lips, it made her toes curl up in her shoes for she felt it, by every God how she felt it. She happened to catch a glimpse of Rhawan though, he was standing there looking a bit sad and she felt almost guilty. Somehow she had wanted him to be a part of this too. Ahravan took her hand and they walked to where several tables had been built and placed in neat rows. They sat down at the one on front, facing the crowd and the people were chanting again and again, Wenja did understand that they were praising her as their new Eth’ir and she blushed to the roots of her hair and tried to smile.

Some of the warriors did silence the crowd with huge arm movements and some women came running into the open area, all wearing some very tiny skirts and a sort of top and nothing more. They started to dance to the sound of a flute and Wenja realized that there would be some entertainment first. Ahravan did hold her hand, it felt safe and she did instinctively seek his protection from all these new things, even if he was a stranger. She did dare to look at him, he wore a similar set of clothes to Rhawan but his was in black and very elaborate and it did make him look stunning since it did contrast his hair. She could see the outline of well defined muscles through the fabric and she realized that he was a warrior as well as a leader. Some of the servants came carrying jugs of wine and the dancers were outdoing themselves for a while. Then some singers did enter the open area and some of the songs made people laugh out loud so they had to be funny.

The entertainment did last for a while, there were jugglers and some did tricks on horseback while a girl wearing nothing but a pair of small panties did show everybody how she was able to twist her body into seemingly impossible postitions. Wenja did almost forget why she was there in the first place. Then the space was cleared again and Rhawan did walk to the middle of it. “Our Ath’ir is honoured by your presence, and delighted by your heartfelt welcome of his new wife. Now it is time for the blessing of gifts”

Wenja had already been told that he would give her things, to show his appreciation of her. She had believed this to be just some small things though, like back home. But now some warriors came carrying caskets with clothes and other things she would need. Some smaller crates did contain jewellery and hair ornaments and there were even woven blankets and bed spreads. Then a man came with two huge long legged dogs on a leash, they were hers from now on and they wagged their tails and did lick her hands. Wenja weren’t that used to dogs but they did seem friendly so she dared to pet them. A good hunting dog was essential if one was to go hunting for food alone.

The next thing which was presented to her was four cows and some ewes and a ram, she had never seen sheep that large and this gift did excite her since she was used to sheep. Her father would have loved to own such sheep, their wool looked so thick and silky and they were swift on their feet and yet larger than the ones back home. The cows had huge horns and she saw that they had been decorated with beautiful patterns carved into the very horn itself. Then a herd of horses was being driven into the open space. It was five mares and some geldings and a tall white stallion which did look as if he knew exactly how gorgeous he was. Wenja was overwhelmed, such horses were so very expensive. Ahravan did see that she loved what she saw and his smile got wider, she was such a wonderful sight and her childlike joy made his heart swell in his chest.

Then the horses were taken away and now Laupir came with Flint, the giant horse did nicker and dance and Wenja did gasp. She had never even believed that a horse could get that large, it was enormous and terrifying. Ahravan smiled and pointed at the beast. “He is Flint, he is a Da’ith, a warhorse. He will keep you safe”

Wenja did frown. “I am not to ride him?”

Ahravan shook his head. “No, he will run next to your horse and protect you both”

Rhawan had told Ahravan about the zahar and the Ath’ir was a bit intrigued as to why the animal still was following them, now he was grazing with Rhawan’s own horses and Ahravan couldn’t help but feel that he had something to do with Wenja. Flint did bow his mighty head and sniffed Wenja’s hands and Laupir was smiling widely. “He likes you, soon we will make sure he bonds with you.”

Wenja could only nod, she was overwhelmed and Ahravan did push a lock of her hair out of her face. “We will make sure that you are safe, always. Forget all worries now, here you will truly be treasured”

Wenja swallowed hard and Ahravan grasped her hand, kissed it reverently. “I am nothing but your humble servant from now on my lady, and rest assure that everybody here will adore you like I do, and like my si’ish does.”

Wenja did blush, so Rhawan had revealed what he felt to Ahravan, well, she hadn’t expected otherwise. Not truly anyhow. Food was being brought inn and now she did realize that she was hungry, where had the time gone?

The three men who had arrived some days earlier had stayed near their tent the whole time, trying to lay low and be ignored. They had been fed and they had even been given some wine and the leader had taken some walks through the camp, staring at the horses as if he truly was there to buy some. When the caravan arrived they pretended as if they didn’t care at all, they showed some curiosity because that would be normal and expected but nothing more than that. But they didn’t see the girl Mjorr had sent them to kill at all and Geir started to really believe that something was off. There was most definitely something the man hadn’t told them and they hated surprises. Now they were hiding at the back of the crowd as the Ath’ir was being married to that village girl and they had to admit that she was stunning, a very rare beautiy and probably a very good wife to be. But the wagon she had arrived in was taken away and the other girl had to be in the hut Wenja had been given so they sort of sauntered towards it, hoping to catch a glimpse of their target.

They pretended as if they were just stretching their legs, talking about horses and as they walked slowly past the tent Osbord did nod towards the entrance. “Someone is coming, don’t look”

They stopped and started discussing some colts grazing in a corral near them and Geir kept his gaze hidden as he did throw a swift glance at the people leaving the hut. It was an elderly dwarven lady and a huge woman who could only be a half orc, between them they were supporting a thin blonde girl who just had to be the one Mjorr wanted dead. She was his sister beyond doubt, it was the same blue eyes and the same slender shape but Geir saw something disturbing as the two women helped the girl sit down on a bench in the sun. She was with child, rather heavily with child too and Geir walked on not looking at her even once more. He dragged the two others back to their tent and whence inside he sat down and stared at them. Killing her was out of the question, first of all, they would never murder a pregnant woman for in their belief that would most certainly condemn their souls to eternal damnation and second of all, this was something they could use. Did Mjorr know that his sister was with child? Was that why he wanted her dead? In that case, why? Who was the father? Was Mjorr trying to protect someone? That he wanted the girl dead before he and his father reached the city told them all that the girl knew something Dagar just couldn’t find out about and Geir had a terrible suspicion. Than tilted his head, he was a bit worn and his hair and beard had started to turn grey, he had seen a lot and his eyes were dark. “He is the father, by every God, I am sure”

Geir clenched his teeth together, he nodded slowly. “We cannot be sure of it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he is no.”

Osbord closed his eyes slowly, there was sheer disgust on his face. “Every God there is should curse him, if he has…if he has lain with his own sister, there is no greater sin!!”

Their tribe had a very strict taboo against incest and such a vile act would endanger everybody, the Gods would strike down upon the entire tribe in wrath. Seeing that pale shivering figure Geir was rather sure that Mjorr had forced himself onto the girl and they did also despise rapists. It was unmanly, and cowardly. They were mercenaries but there is a difference between killing in battle and killing to cover up someone elses foul deeds. They felt used and betrayed and Than hit the table so hard it jumped. “We won’t do anything until he arrives, if we can confirm that he…that the child is his…then he is to bear the full brunt of what he has done. The gods will strike down upon us if we don’t act upon our knowledge”

Geir nodded. “Aye, we stay, and we protect the girl. If anything she is innocent in this, Mjorr is gonna pay for having sent us off to do this, we could have faced damnation”

They all shuddered and all were a bit pale. Being in danger of losing the favour of their gods was terrifying, yes, Mjorr would have to pay for his sin, and pay a lot!

The feasting and dancing did last for hours and now food was being brought forth in huge amounts. Wenja had never seen such dishes before and she was glad Theka did sit close to her and Sefa wasn’t that far away neither. Both whispered to her what it was that was brought to the table and she realized that she was to just take a small taste of each dish. Nobody could eat a lot of each unless they had the stomach of a troll. Wenja did recognize the grilled lamb and the fried fish but some of the other dishes were alien to her. She had never had a sort of meat pudding with spices in it, and the dried smoked melon was delicious as Sefa had promised. There was wine to go with the food and mead too and she soon felt tipsy. Ahravan had to stop the ones serving the food from giving her too much. Small cakes and other desserts were presented to the party goers after the main dishes and now the kids were everywhere, begging for treats. Wenja did see that the children there looked very happy and protected and she liked that, in many families where she was from children were regarded as work force and nothing more.

Now the dances started and Wenja realized that she had to dance with Ahravan at least once, it was expected and she felt stiff as a board as he got up and offered her his hand. She took it with a stiff grin and let him lead her forth until they reached the open area in front of the tables. The music was slow and almost hypnotic and yet it was joyful and light hearted and she liked it a lot. The dance was simple enough, just wandering small steps round in circles while circling each other and they did sometimes change direction and Ahravan’s hand was supporting her back the whole time, it made her feel much better and she started to enjoy this. The dance became more vigorous, now the males were to spin their partners around and even lift her every now and then and being tipsy that really made Wenja feel somewhat odd, but it was fun and Ahravan was so very strong and yet gentle. Some did sing very loudly and Wenja didn’t understand much but she started to realize that some of the songs were rather obscene in nature for some of the lead singers did exchange some words with very tell tale body movements and everybody were laughing and mimicking them.

She did even dance with Rhawan and he did whisper endearments to her and she felt herself blush, she remembered what she had seen him and Sefa do and knew that it wouldn’t be long before she too was to do these things. It was odd to think about.

The evening became late afternoon and it was getting darker and Wenja did realize that she was tired and her head did feel heavy. She had been drinking too much and she needed the chamber pot and the dress felt heavy now. Sefa did walk over and she did wink at Ahravan. “She is tired my lord, and ready for a good night sleep, I will take her back to the hut if that is alright with you”

Ahravan nodded and bent over, did kiss Wenja on her forehead. “It is, I will join you soon”

Wenja did remember that they were sleep in the same tent now but nothing would happen yet, it as somewhat comforting to know. Sefa did show her the latrines which had been dug in an area of the city meant for this and Wenja found them to be rather smart. There was little smell because they were being covered with dirt very fast and she realized that everybody there were very concerned about hygiene. It was probably just to expect, so many people living together would mean that disease could break out easily if such matters weren’t paid attention to. The hut had been rearranged a bit, now there was a small room in front of where Wenja’s bed was placed and a bedroll had been placed on the floor there. She realized that Ahravan was to sleep there and she found that a bit odd, he was the Ath’ir after all.

Sefa just grinned. “It is tradition, he will be watching you for these two first nights and then on the third night he is allowed to touch you”

Wenja did shudder ever so slightly. He was so much larger than her, and rather intimidating in spite of his obvious kindness, she wondered if they could do it at all. Sefa did help her get rid of the dress and the jewellery and then she washed Wenja and put her into her nightgown. The bed was very comfortable and soft and the covers made from softly woven blankets and some very silky furs. Wenja did feel that it indeed had been a very long day although it had been over so quickly, there had been so much happening and Sefa did grin. “Over the next days you will receive gifts also from the other citizens of the city, it is tradition. It may not be much but I can assure you that everything is heartfelt.”

Wenja did blush. “I did receive such rich gifts today, from Ahravan. I cannot even start to imagine how I can thank him”

Sefa grinned and tucked her inn. “Be a joy to him and that will be more than enough, I can promise that everything was given freely”

Wenja managed to grin. “I think he did like me”

Sefa giggled. “Oh dear, he did more than like you. Everybody with eyes could see that, he is soon as infatuated as Rhawan.”

Wenja did actually like that idea, it was…comforting. Sefa did blow out the lamp and Wenja laid there for a while, tired but to wired up to really relax until she heard someone approaching the bedroll. She heard him lay down and sigh when he relaxed into the covers and she couldn’t see him but she did smell him, a rather masculine scent which was different from Rhawan’s. He whispered. “Are you awake?”

Wenja nodded. “I am”

Ahravan could be heard moving slightly. “You did well today, I am very proud of you. Sleep now, tomorrow is gonna be a long day too”

She remembered that it included baths in some sacred springs and she was starting to look forward to it, she hadn’t really had time to get to know him at all. She had seen enough to recognize that he was dearly loved by his peers and that the entire people did obey him out of respect and trust. She smiled to herself. “Good night”

He whispered back, his voice deep and calming. “And a good night to you too my lady”

Wenja found that she finally could relax enough to sleep.

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