The heart of the eternal

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Chapter 6: Last farewell

The bottle contained wine and Wenja got a little, she had never tasted wine before and the fruity taste did surprise her. She realized that she would have to get used to wine for Ahnriel said that wine was being drunk at every special occasion and it was normally rather strong too. Sina was practical, she was gathering up Wenja’s belongings and the small bag she put things into told everyone that the girl didn’t own much at all. Rhawan was smiling. “You will be travelling by carriage, we have several ready by the lake. You will have several people dedicated to teaching you everything you will need to know and you will be given clothes and things according to your new status”

Wenja had to blush, she had always wanted pretty gowns for what girl didn’t? Ahnriel giggled. “You are so rare little one, that hair of yours, does it come from your mother’s side?”

Ulfar shook his head. “Wenja’s mother was my sister, she was a widow and died here when Wenja was just two, we adopted her. But the hair comes from Wenja’s father. He was a redhead”

Ahnriel nodded. “Our Ath’ir will adore it, he is very fond of beauty”

Wenja didn’t feel beautiful at all, the girls of the village were prettier than her in the eyes of the mountain people. Halda got some cheese too and she was weeping, she felt her legs again, they hurt but Ahnriel said that it would pass. She would have to start slowly but by the spring there was a good chance that she would be able to leave the bed. Wenja was very curious but she wasn’t sure if she was allowed to express this. Girls were supposed to be quiet and demure and Rhawan saw her expression and saved her from the situation. “So, I bet you have many questions little one, ask away. We are here to answer them”

Wenja looked at Ulfar who nodded, it was alright. She took a deep breath. “I know so little about you eternal, only that you protect the mountain realms”

Rhawan smiled gently and placed Idah next to himself, she had been sitting on his knee, playing with his long braid. “Well, there are a lot of things you need to know then. First of all, only you humans call us eternal, we ourselves call us elves. There are several tribes but they are divided into twelve clans each with the responsibility for an area of the plains. Our Ath’ir is the leader of all the twelve clans, their war leader, the one who makes sure that everybody knows what to do at all times”

She swallowed. “So he is a warrior?”

Rhawan nodded with pride. “The very best there is, that is why he was chosen to lead.”

Sina held Surun, the boy was trying to reach Ahnriel’s hair to chew on it. “Tell us more about him please”

Rhawan bowed his head. “Of course, I will tell you all I can. His name is Ahravan and he is older than me, he has seen many wars and many great battles of old”

Wenja had to whisper the name, Ahravan, as if she was to taste it. So that was the name of the one who would be her husband. It felt strange. Rhawan did continue. “I am his Si’ish, that means bond brother, we are not related by blood but are sworn to each other. He saved my life once and I his and thus we look out for each other.”

Ulfar did nod. “I have heard of that yes, an ancient custom”

Rhawan smiled back. “Yes, I am the person he trusts the most so he sent me to make sure that his new bride makes it to the plains safe.”

Sina frowned. “You said new bride, has he been married before?”

Rhawan nodded. “Yes, once. It was centuries ago and it was to a mortal woman like Wenja here.”

Bagir tilted his head. “So, he is a widower?”

Rhawan did chuckle. “Yes, the way you see it. But that marriage wasn’t a happy one at all”

Sina looked surprised. “Oh? What went wrong?”

Rhawan sighed. “The woman was a gift, from a local human leader and Ahravan couldn’t refuse to accept her out of fear of insulting the giver. She was a very vain person you see, extremely fond of the new title and a bit too aware of her heightened status. She didn’t act like a very wise person at all.”

Sina made a grimace “ I have heard of women like that, but he was…he was kind to her?”

Rhawan nodded. “Yes, he did care about her, even when she acted as if she was the ruler of the whole land. She died after many years and he did mourn her, even though she had been rather despicable at best”

Wenja looked down, a man capable of mourning even a bad person? That was making her feel a bit better. Rhawan petted Wenja’s hand over the table. “Ahravan is a good man Wenja, don’t worry. He will treat you with all due respect”

Bagir was fidgeting with the table knife. “The monsters, are they around still? I know that the twelve clans keep them from entering the mountain land but some say that the beasts are gone and that we don’t need protection any longer”

Rhawan sent the man a wry grin. “I have heard that too, but unfortunately they are still around. Pouring down from the north every now and then, spreading havoc. We fought some huge packs last year. If they reach the mountains there will be no stopping them I am afraid so we keep our eyes open and have sentinels out at all times”

Wenja swallowed. “You say monsters, but what sort of creatures are they?”

Rhawan sighed, “There are little kettles here so maybe that is better spared for another time?”

Ulfar nodded, he knew what the eternal meant. The kids shouldn’t hear about this. Bagir shrugged. “I have heard a lot, I can imagine that only superior warriors are able to fight them”

Ahnriel smiled and waved her fingers at Surun who was sucking on his thumb. “Yes, there are both humans and elves in the twelve clans though, we work together as one. The people of the plains are a hardy bunch and they are expert fighters too. That is needed yes”

Ulfar looked down. “We would be in trouble without the protection now wouldn’t we?”

Rhawan smiled, a swift grin, almost apologetic. “Yes, we have met many humans who think that they don’t need us nor the pact between our races but that attitude usually ends the moment they face their first beasts.”

Bagir chuckled. “I can imagine that. We had a man in the village some years ago, huge burly guy, and very sure that he was the strongest one there. But unfortunately he ran into two bears and we had to come and help him out of a tree. He wasn’t so brave after all”

Rhawan laughed out loud, he had a very soft and deep laugher and Wenja could imagine that he was a good singer. They said that the eternal had voices like angels and she did believe that now. Ahnriel sighed and stretched herself. “The gifts will be brought to you when we reach the lake, and I think that we will add some gold for you are by the great goddess not wealthy. And with a new little one on the way…”

Sina was blushing and looked down. “Yes”

Ahnriel did look at Surun. “He is adorable, but there is something wrong with him, I am sure you have seen that?”

Sina nodded. “Yes, he is…slow”

Ahnriel tilted her head. “Yes, and unfortunately there is nothing I can do about that for it isn’t an injury but the result of you not having enough food while carrying him and being tired and worn down. The new little one on the other hand will be strong and healthy. “

Sina blinked. “Oh thank the gods, I have been so worried. Is it?”

Ahnriel smiled. “It is a girl”

Sina did look relieved, girls were less rambunctious and demanding than a boy and could help her with her work. Ulfar swallowed. “Will Surun ever be normal?”

Ahnriel shook her head. “No, he will always be small and weak but his mind isn’t too damaged, he is smart but he needs more time than others to understand fully. I suggest that you let him become a herder, that is simple work but one he can do even if he isn’t that large and strong”

Bagir grinned. “He will be like me, the terror of every mother looking for a son in law with status and power”

Everybody laughed and Wenja felt how her heart seemed to swell with love, her family meant the world to her and now she had saved them, but would have to leave them behind. Rhawan stared at her. “Is there anything else you want to know little one?”

She blushed. “Yes…how…what does he look like?”

Rhawan grinned. “He is taller than me believe it or not, and his skin is dark but not as dark as mine. His hair is like gold though, and his eyes green, like a meadow in summer”

Wenja looked down, taller than Rhawan? How was that even possible? Ahnriel giggled. “He is beautiful, you will have a husband who is good to look at”

Sina giggled too and her eyes were shining, she appeared to have gotten her joy of life back. Rhawan got up and almost banged his head on the roof. “It is getting late and we will leave you now and see if we can get some sleep.”

Ulfar nodded and walked out to show them the way to the hay barn and Wenja sat there and felt so strange. It was like any other evening and yet not. It was her last one in this home. She didn’t want to cry but she felt tears forming in her eyes and Sina embraced her. “There there Wenja, do not cry. You have saved us all child.”

Wenja tried to smile. “I know but…leaving you will be terrible”

Sina put her hands on Wenja’s shoulders. “I know, and I don’t want to let my girl go, but it is time for you to become so much more than a sheep farmer’s daughter. I can let you go now, knowing that your future will be a bright one. I will see you leave knowing that you will be safe, I’d rather never see you again but know you are happy than fear that Mjorr will ruin your life completely.”

Wenja shuddered. “Mjorr. Rhawan did just throw him into the crowd, like he was a ragdoll. I don’t think Mjorr will dare to do anything nasty again”

Sina sighed and embraced her again “Let us pray that this is true.”

Wenja went to bed next to Halda who had fallen asleep already, exhausted by all the new impressions. She did feel the familiar scent of her sister and the house and tried to make sure that she would remember it forever. She was so tired and yet it was hard to relax enough to sleep, she was writhing about for a long time before she finally succumbed to her body’s need for rest. Her last thought was in wonder, why had she been chosen for such an honour?

The next morning came with clear skies and freezing cold and Wenja felt how her throat almost closed up, she felt terrible but at the same time, she would be safe and her family would become rich and safe too. They prepared her in silence. She ate and hugged her siblings one last time. Idah and Farkur wept but Surun did just suck his thumb and try to squirm his way out of her grip. She had been given Ulfar’s cloak in addition to her own and she tried to not cry. Ahnriel did saddle the horses and Rhawan stood there waiting for her. She hugged Ulfar and he kissed her forehead and blessed her and Sina held her tight and whispered that she was very proud of Wenja and that her husband surely would adore someone that kind hearted and bright of spirit. She hugged Halda who wept and Bagir squeezed her hand and tried to smile. “If that husband of yours ever treat you with anything but the outmost kindness and gentleness tell him that I will hunt him down”

Wenja had to grin. “I will”

Sina dried some tears. “Be blessed my daughter, bear him strong children and love them well”

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