The heart of the eternal

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Chapter 4: The chosen one

Four figures did emerge from within the temple and three of them were very tall indeed, over a head taller than even Karkar. Wenja had to gasp, they were beyond beautiful, they were angelic. So filled with youth and life and yet their eyes spoke of oceans of time. One of them was dressed like a warrior with armour and two swords across his back but the two others wore very elaborate robes in some material Wenja had never seen. It was shimmering and seemingly very soft and she wondered how that had been woven. The thread had to be so thin it was barely visible. The two in the robes were rather fair skinned with long silvery hair and blue eyes, the warrior had skin as dark as a winter night and his hair was a deep deep blue, almost indigo. The eyes were amber coloured and he was both stunning and scary at the same time. Beside them was a human, a very handsome man who wore a very nice jacket and some elaborate jewellery which identified him as the one in charge of this part of the realm. Everybody were silent, staring at the three with huge eyes and one of them bowed his head gently. “Good people of this village, we have come in peace and in hope of connecting our peoples even tighter than before. Our great leader has been given a prophecy, a maid from this valley is to be his new bride”

One of the men there did look a bit suspicious. “Do you expect us to just hand over our womenfolk to strangers?”

The emissary shook his head. “No, of course not. If the girl doesn’t want to come with us we will not force her. But there will be great benefits for her family if she does.”

Some other voice was heard from the crowd. “Such as?”

The tall blonde smiled, a very gentle smile. “The family will be given a hundred pieces of gold, fifty cows and ten gold armrings, And also ten good broodmares and hundred rolls of good cloth.”

The crowd fell silent, it was a bloody fortune, not even Dagar was that rich. Everybody just stared with their jaws almost hitting their chests. The other emissary lifted his hands and gestured towards the girls. “You need to pull your cowls down, and bare your neck. Do not worry, this will only take a few seconds”

The human opened a small box and took out a large flat crystal, it did glow faintly and he handed it over to the tall eternal with obvious reverence. Hodan appeared to be close to tears from sheer religious joy. The girls had fallen silent too, they appeared to have understood the severity of this now. Everybody were staring and many hoped that their relative would be the chosen one. The first girl was Solfi, she appeared to be pretty confident and convinced that she would be the one even before she was tested. Her face did look triumphant already and the tall eternal lifted the crystal and held it over her exposed neck, let the light hit the skin. He held it there for a while but nothing happened and he lowered the crystal again. “She is not the one”

Solfi did look pissed. “Are you sure that thing is working? It could be defective?”

The tall eternal shook his head. “No little one, it is not”

He just moved on to the next girl in line, it was Prina and she did look terribly nervous. She had bared her thin neck and both the eternal did stare at her and Wenja saw pity in their eyes. The crystal didn’t reveal anything and Wenja did see that Dagar looked disappointed. Perhaps he had hoped that his daughter would collect this huge prize. The next girl was the daughter of the village blacksmith and she was used to working hard, short and stocky and her hands were stained black from the work at the forge. She did look rather humble as she bared her neck and everybody held their breaths. There was nothing and now there was just Wenja and two more girls left. Wenja saw that the daughter of one of the cattle breeders were tested and there was nothing there. Now it was just her and one more girl and she held her breath as the tall emissary stopped behind her. She had pulled her long hair to the side and her jacket was pulled down. Everybody held their breaths, Wenja had never been one of them and few did believe that she could have any chance now.

The emissary did lift the crystal and at first nothing happened, then all of a sudden glowing signs seemed to appear on her skin, as if drawn onto it with fluorescent ink and the emissary let out a small yelp. “Behold, the chosen one is found, the gods have spoken!”

The crowd gaped, then some shouted. “She is cheating, check her again, it cannot be her!”

Wenja did shake, it couldn’t be true, she couldn’t be the one? It was impossible. Ulfar did look stunned and Bagir did stare at her with awe, then he did raise the spear. The eternal did shake their head. “There can be no cheating, the crystal speaks the truth. She is the one, and nobody can deny this”

Hodan nodded and raised his arms. “Order, the voice of the sacred has been heard, Wenja is the one they came for”

There was a roar of anger coming from the crowd and suddenly Dagar rushed forth. “Do not dare to tell us that this…feckin’ whore…is the chosen one!”

The two eternal did stare at the man and their eyes had gotten hard. “She is to be titled as Eth’ir from now on human, and the village is blessed to have raised her”

Mjorr did push his way through the crowd, he carried a short sword and there was madness in his eyes. He was aiming for Wenja but didn’t make it that far, a hand shot out from seemingly nowhere and he was grasped in a terrible grip which almost crushed his arm. Mjorr did let out a shriek of agony and the tall warrior did pick the sword out of his hand as if the man was a kid playing with a toy he wasn’t allowed to touch. Wenja felt faint, dizzy. It wasn’t true, no, it wasn’t real. The emissary bowed to her. “My name is Ehbrial, this is Khirhien, we are the advisors of the Ath’ir. We are honoured to meet you”

The dark skinned one bowed his head, he had tossed Mjorr back into the crowd as if the human was a mere ball of wool, close to weightless. “ I am Rhawan, the Si’ish of the Ath’ir. I am honoured to serve you my lady”

Wenja whimpered, Ulfar and Bagir came over and Ulfar took her hand, he didn’t appear to have words. Ehbrial smiled and the human emissary walked over and took the crystal, put it back in the box. “ I am Thokan, I serve the Ath’ir and I am very honoured that the Eth’ir is from my part of this realm”

Wenja couldn’t think, was this true after all? There was still angry murmurs coming from the crowd and Khirhien raised a hand. “The mighty Ath’ir will also reward this valley for having raised his bride, you will be given all the wheat you need for the next ten years and every household will receive ten gold coins, one each year”

Suddenly the mood changed drastically, now they were cheering and Wenja felt embarrassed, how greedy they all were. Ulfar was a bit pale. “Oh high one, must she do this?”

Ehbrial shook his head. “We do not force people, it would be against the will of the gods. She can chose freely”

Wenja felt that her legs were about to give way underneath her but she stared at Ulfar and Bagir and knew that the wealth promised could change everything. Ulfar swallowed. “If she chooses to do this it must be of her own will. We do not sell our children, and I will not let her leave if you cannot promise that she will be treated well”

Rhawan went down on one knee, he was so tall he still almost was of the same height as Ulfar. “I give you my word, the Ath’ir will treat her like the treasure she is, no harm will ever come to her and she will never be beaten nor starve. I swear this”

Hodan had stood there the whole time and he appeared to be overwhelmed. He was a very strict man but Wenja had liked him in spite of it for he was always fair. He swallowed again and again. “What blessings for our small humble community, such wonderful blessings”

Ulfar did look shocked still and Bagir was fidgeting with his belt. “Wenja, this is up to you, we can make it you know, without all that wealth.”

She took a deep breath, stared at the inhumanly beautiful faces. “I know so little about you eternal, but they say you have healers who can heal almost any disease?”

Khirhien nodded. “Yes, our healers are blessed, and we do have one in our group as a matter of fact. Ahnriel is a very skilled one”

Wenja swallowed hard, marrying one of the eternal? Having to go to bed with someone that wonderfully beautiful and terrifying? Being his wife, bearing the children of someone that far above her? It was impossible and yet she had caught a sliver of hope, one she refused to let go of. “I will do it, I will come with you but only if you agree to heal my sister”

Ulfar gasped. “Wenja…”

The eternal didn’t seem to be shocked by her determination, they just smiled. “We will gladly help, what ails your sister?”

Ulfar was hoarse. “She fell down a canyon two years ago, her legs are paralyzed and now…her lungs are failing”

Rhawan was frowning. “That is serious, and may not heal but I am sure that Ahnriel can heal her sick lungs and give her more strength. “

Ulfar let out small wail. “Even that would be wonderful, a true miracle”

Wenja saw that her father was close to tears, the money and everything would make him a man of importance and the family would never have to starve again. Wenja felt that her decision was made, and her will adamant. She would not go back on it now, no matter what the future would bring, it would be worth it. She could save her family and then she didn’t care about her own fate. Ehbrial put a hand on her shoulder. “Our leader will surely open his heart to such courage and such love. He will be blessed by your pure soul”

Rhawan grinned. “I will ride and get Ahnriel right away, we have to leave tomorrow so this night will be your last one at home little one”

Wenja swallowed hard, Bagir embraced her. “Our brave girl, you have the courage of a lioness”

The dark skinned eternal did mount one of the horses with a fleeting movement and galloped off and Wenja still felt dizzy. Thokan bowed his head. “Your family will be revered by us all from now on, do not worry young one.”

Ulfar swallowed visibly. “My daughter, the wife of the Ath’ir. I cannot believe it”

Ehbrial smiled gently, he did seem like a genuinely good person and Wenja did notice that neither of them did stare at her worn clothes and her poor appearance. “I am sure it is well deserved”

Bagir made a gesture. “My lords, there is one thing you ought to know. The young man who stormed forth and Rhawan threw away, he is a bad one. He has been trying to convince Ulfar here to let him marry Wenja for a long time but he is a nasty piece of…a promiscuous scoundrel. Ulfar has declined and Mjorr is very dangerous, he may try to harm her knowing she will become the bride of someone else”

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