The heart of the eternal

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 3: Unexpected happenings

The next days Wenja had to stay in the house, at all times. She didn’t even go to the sheep barn to help Ulfar feed the animals as she usually did. Instead Farkur helped him and Surun was wailing constantly since he couldn’t stand to be away from his big brother. Sina did take it with some acceptance, she never complained about anything, even when she really ought to. There was plenty of work to do and Wenja was never bored but she had a constant feeling of dread at the back of her mind, What if Mjorr decided to attack? He did have friends who were just as stupid and brutish as himself and not even Dagar was able to control them. The dog was a blessing, he was a good watchdog and would bark whenever he did notice that anything did move in the area around the farm. Ulfar did praise the dog each time that happened and gave it treats. Then Bagir dropped by on his way to the village with some hides, the man was dark and thin and his face tanned and worn by sun and wind but he had a sparkle in his eyes and he was smiling all the time. But this time his smile was absent and his eyes were dark, he kicked the snow off his shoes and petted the dog which wagged its tail in ecstatic joy.

“I have seen Mjorr, the other day. He was wandering around by the dam, I didn’t ask him what he was doing there but he did look like a thundercloud”

Ulfar scoffed. “That lad looks as if he has tried to suck on a sour apple for too long, why can’t he realize that my daughter isn’t for him?”

Bagir shrugged. “She resists him, that makes her irresistible in the eyes of a man like that. I know the type, he isn’t right in the head, not by a longshot.”

Sina did heat some water and gave Bagir some tea, the man did thank her with a small grin. Ulfar leaned his chin into his hands. “We can only hope that the paths south open early next spring, so we can go to the markets. If Wenja goes somewhere else I hope he will forget about her”

Bagir sort of mumbled. “I wouldn’t count on it, that incident with the cow dung did sting his pride. No woman has ever fought back you know”

Ulfar scoffed. “And who’s fault is that? The villagers raise their daughters to be meek and tame and then they complain about their wives being boring and dumb?”

He petted Wenja on her shoulder. “I am proud to say that my Wenja is capable of thinking on her own”

Bagir nodded and snickered. “She would be too strong for a man like Mjorr, he would fear her and a man like that hates what he fears. He can never marry a strong woman, he would end up murdering her.”

Ulfar had a hard expression upon his face. “I trust that you can keep an eye on us?”

Bagir nodded. “I surely will, the snow is coming and tracks can be seen from afar. I know your way of walking Ulfar, if I see any strange tracks I will let you know!”

Sina did look relieved but Wenja felt nervous still. How could anyone be that spoiled and mad? Bagir sighed. “There are rumours spreading throughout the village, Dagar is getting tired of Mjorr causing problems. Dagar want to increase his influence through the valleys and he can’t when his son is causing one scandal after the other, they say Dagar is negotiating a marriage to the daughter of one of the valley chieftains south of here”

Ulfar sighed deeply. “If only that was true, then my daughter would be safe”

Bagir let out a small growl. “No, she wouldn’t. Mjorr is determined Ulfar, he wants her, if only to humiliate her, make her unattractive to others.”

Ulfar looked down. “I know, it breaks my heart to keep her trapped inside of this small house but there is no other way.”

Bagir nodded. “Stay strong, the gods are with those who don’t break. One day Mjorr will meet his destiny, do not doubt that”

Sina rocked Surun on her knee. “If that only could happen soon”

Bagir did leave and now snow was starting to fall, the area was very pretty but the cold was an enemy and they always feared that the winter would be too long, that their storages would run out before the warmth returned. Wenja stayed indoors, weaved and knitted and tried to keep herself occupied and Ulfar had more than enough work with the sheep. The pig was ruining his small home so Ulfar had to rebuild it and Farkur helped him. The boy was going to become a very strong man one day, and a capable one too for he wasn’t afraid of working hard. A week went by and then one morning Bjarkad acted in a funny way, the dog was whining and hiding under the house and refused to come out. Ulfar had to drag him out and then the dog spewed and there was blood in it. Sina was terrified it could be something which was contagious but Ulfar didn’t think so. It had come too fast.

The dog was laying in front of the hearth shivering and whimpering and in obvious agony and then it spewed more blood and they just knew it, it was dying. Ulfar was shocked, what could this be? The dog had been perfectly healthy the day before and it had to be some sort of injury. Before noon the dog died and Ulfar knew that Bagir would mourn him, the dogs meant the world to that man. He went to tell Bagir and the herder did come with Ulfar when he returned. The two men did cut the dog open and Wenja had never seen that expression on her father’s face before. He was furious and scared at the same time and Bagir was fuming. Sina was massaging Halda’s legs and she turned her head, her eyes told Wenja that she realized that something was very wrong. “What was it?”

Bagir swallowed hard. “A most terrible trick hunters used in the old days, when they hunted wolves. They would boil the rib of a lamb and sharpen it in both ends, bend it and put it inside of a small piece of meat and leave it for the wolves and when they ate the piece of meat it would thaw in their gut and the rib would straighten itself out again and piece its guts”

Sina gasped and Ulfar cussed, Surun made huge eyes, he wasn’t used to his father using such strong words. “Mjorr was behind this, mark my words. He was afraid of the dog.”

Bagir sighed “I have no more dogs to spare, I am sorry. I don’t know what to do, but I can stay here if you like. I just need a place to sleep in the hay”

Ulfar smiled, a grateful expression on his face. “Bless you friend, that would be wonderful, with two men present the bastard would find an attack less tempting. Farkur was pulling at Ulfar’s coat. “I am a man too, three men!”

Farkur did ruffle his son’s hair. “Yes, you are a man too, of course you are. Three brave warriors, that ought to keep the women safe now wouldn’t it?”

Farkur did look very proud and he did hold his head up high, he was beaming with it.

They buried the poor dog and Wenja knew that whoever did it was capable of doing even worse things, a dog was very precious up there. The farms couldn’t make it without good dogs protecting the herds and the worth of a watchdog could be greater than the worth of a good horse.

Bagir would go down to the village every now and then and he did listen to the gossip and kept his eyes open and one evening he did return and his eyes were wide and he was almost panting. It was obvious that he had seen something very strange and Wenja did think that he looked a bit like a hunting dog which has caught an interesting scent. The family gathered by the table and Bagir stared at Ulfar. “Strangers have arrived at the village, travellers from afar. They are emissaries from the Ath’ir”

Ulfar gasped. “What? Are you kidding me?”

Bagir shook his head. “No, it is a group from what I have been told and they have a lot of wagons and everything but that was left in the village down by the lake, the road here is too narrow for such. There are at least five of them here now, and three are of the eternal”

Sina gaped and Wenja had to swallow, the eternal, she had never even seen one of those before. Ulfar frowned. “What are they doing here? Our protectors does usually stay on the plains?”

Bagir grinned. “Oh, that is where it becomes interesting, you see, there is a sort of prophecy and they have come because of it. There is someone they need to find”

Sina frowned and Halda did lift herself as much as she could. “Who?”

Bagir shrugged. “A maiden, with a mark at the back of her neck. They demand that every unwed woman is gathered by the temple tomorrow, to be checked”

Sina did look a bit suspicious. “Why? What do they want with this maid?”

Bagir snickered. “She is to get married to the Ath’ir”

Ulfar did look as if the moon had fallen down. “Are you serious?”

Bagir nodded and stretched. “Oh yes, and the mark is invisible to the naked eye so it can be anyone!”

Wenja wetted her lips. “Oh, what if it is Prina? She is unwed, and young. Or Solfi, she is pretty”

Sina scoffed. “If it is Solfi then pity be with the Ath’ir for she is a despicable one”

Wenja blinked. “Does that mean that I have to go to the village?”

Bagir nodded. “Yes, every unwed maiden has to go. It is an order, and we cannot go against the will of the protectors. But worry not, there will be people everywhere and we will be with you, Nobody is gonna try something funny in the middle of a crowd”

Halda sighed. “I cannot go”

Sina stroked her hair. “No sweetheart, I am so sorry. This is so sad”

Wenja tried to cheer her sister up. “You know, I can tell you all about it when I return”

Halda nodded slowly. “Do that”

She turned her head to Bagir. “Did you see them, the eternal? Are they as pretty as people say they are?”

Bagir nodded. “Yes, like gods, but I only saw them from afar”

Wenja felt a knot in her gut, one part of her wanted to go, desperately. She had never seen anyone of that mysterious race and she had wanted to, ever since she was a kid. The other part of her was terrified, what if Mjorr did try something after all? But they had to obey, everybody knew that the Ath’ir and his warriors was what kept the mountain region safe from terrible monsters and it was a pact as old as time itself. The gods favoured those who did honour the eternal.

Ulfar sighed deeply. “Then we’ll go early in the morning, before dawn. And we will bring our spears and our knives and you Wenja will carry my sword”

Wenja swallowed hard, she had learned how to stab and strike with that sword but nothing more. Sina tried to smile. “It will be good for you dear, to get out of here again. Stay with your father and Bagir, it will be fine”

Wenja sent her mother a forced grin, it didn’t feel like it would be fine, it felt like it would be a very stupid thing to do. But they had to go, everybody knew of her and refusing the call would be to throw shame upon their name. Was seeing the eternal really worth the risk? Only time would tell.

The next morning Sina woke her up very early and they got dressed with the warmest clothes they had. Bagir carried his spear and Ulfar had some long knives and Sina did slip Wenja a small knife she normally used for cutting threads. It was tiny enough to hide in a sleeve and Wenja did attach it to her tunic before pulling her jacket on. Sina did look nervous, she was wringing her hands and hugged Ulfar when they were to leave. “Watch her well beloved”

Ulfar nodded. “I will, do not worry my sunlight”

Wenja did pull the cowl of the cape up over her head and then they started the long walk down to the valley. It was very steep to begin with and Bagir had made a sort of railing many places, ropes tied to trees and rocks and Wenja knew every rock there but now there was snow and it was treacherous. The heavy skirts made it hard to walk but she bit her teeth together and endured, it wasn’t all that cold yet so she didn’t have to worry about frostbite. As the path became less difficult she saw the lights from the village in the distance, like far away stars. The small gathering of houses wasn’t large but she had never been outside of this valley and to her it was grand. The entire village seemed to be awake and she heard dogs barking and voices from afar. Bagir nodded at her. “Stay close to us girl, do not leave us under any circumstance”

Wenja nodded and they walked on, the village was not at all that large but now everybody were outside and they gathered by the temple. Wenja gasped, some horses stood tied to the tethering poles and she had never seen animals like those, she hadn’t even believed that a horse could get that large and that beautiful. They were sleek long legged animals with wide heads and large nostrils and all were silvery grey, like polished steel. The tack was rather simple but adorned with silver thread and sparkling beads and the horses did look as if they could run for days without becoming exhausted. Ulfar let out a sigh of sheer admiration, only the chief and Dagar did own a horse there, and those animals were small and long haired and looked like sheep compared with these aristocratic beauties.

Wenja saw Hodan by the temple gate, he did look very excited and she remembered that the eternal were so much closer to the gods than any human could ever hope to be. To him this had to be like being visited by the very deities themselves and he was almost in tears. The power of the eternal did hold their realm safe and Wenja didn’t think that any there had ever met one of this mysterious people before. Hodan did clear his voice. “My herd, listen to me, bring them all forth, all the maidens who never have known a man.”

There weren’t that many girls in this village who weren’t married, just five not including Wenja and she did see that Mjorr and Dagar stood at the back of the crowd, looking pissed off. The girls did step forth and Wenja got a firm nod from Ulfar. “I will be watching you”

She swallowed her fear and stepped forth, she stood there among the others and they formed a line. The other girls were giggling and blushing and they appeared to like the idea of becoming the wife of the Ath’ir. Wenja didn’t care, she just wanted this over with so she could return to her home and the safety of the well known timber walls. Prina was there too, she was pale and her eyes even more enormous than before and Wenja saw that her hands were shaking. Hodar did raise his arms. “Welcome the emissaries of our great lord and protector. “

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.