“Daahhh!” Tallin screamed frantically as she squirmed in Lianna’s arms.
Torin and Raven neared the camp on their horses. The Zeil were already several miles north west, hoping to skirt any major cities to keep unnoticed. Torin, Raven, and a couple other men had journeyed a bit in the region, hoping to see if there was anything anything to worry about.
“Hush, Tallin,” Lianna tried to calm her. The child puffed her chest out as she grunted unsatisfied. She continued to mutter ”Dahh, Daaaahh" until Lianna rolled her eyes and released the child.
Like a demon, she ran forth, until Torin left his horse and raced after her. He pulled her into his arms and laughed as she squealed excitedly. His eyes moved past the little girl to his wife who smiled happily at his return.
“So she is walking now,” he observed. Proud, but disappointed in missing so much as he was absent. He smiled, kissing the child's head.
Lianna walked to them, a hand on her large belly. Resting Tallin against his side, Torin rushed to Lianna and pulled her into a heavy kiss. She chuckled and pulled an inch from him, touching her fingertips to his hair that fell far down the center of his forehead. “Your hair is growing long.”
“Aye, but who cares about that?” he smiled as he leaned in for another kiss. She leaned back, her belly pressed against his. Tallin kicked wildly, pulling on his tunic. Even the babe within Lianna kicked. “It seems that the new one missed you as well,” she chuckled.
Sighing with a short laugh, he stood back up and ruffled the little girl’s hair. “I am just glad to see the tribe is doing so well with the relocation.”
She lowered her eyes a bit and sighed softly. “Some of the elder ones are getting ill as the weather grows cold. I am unsure if we can tend to them all,” she replied. He grew quiet at her words. With a forced smile and a tilt of her head, Lianna said, “But let us not dwell on that...no? Come, I want to spend some time with my husband.” She wrapped her arms around one of his as they walked toward her tent. “Were your travels safe?”
He hesitated then said, “Not safe, no, but we were successful.”
“Are you unharmed?” He nodded. “...Are you well, Torin? You look...sick.”
He shrugged a shoulder as he entered the tent. Lianna fastened the entrance flaps shut then sat on the cot beside Torin. Taking the child from him, she sat her on the rug with a toy. She chewed on the hair of her doll, making silly sounds to herself. Putting her full attention back on Torin, she waited.
He stared absently at Tallin as she smacked the doll off the floor, then stood and ran around with it clutched in one hand. His hands gripped his knees tightly as he grew lost in his thoughts.
Lianna touched the knuckles of his hand nearest her and he shot his gaze to her. He sighed and leaned forward, resting his forehead to hers. Closing his eyes, he said, “I worry for my brother.”
“And that is to be understood,” she answered at a whisper. She touched her soft hand to the side of his face, gently caressing his cheek. “But do not dwell, for that will only break you more.”
“I know,” he sighed. Kissing her forehead, he leaned back up to look at her. “I have not treated you as I should,” he admitted. Her brows creased and he said, “I swear to you that from this moment on I will do the very best I can for you. You are my love, my wife, the mother of my children. I will not take you for granted anymore.”
“You do not,” she shook her head. “You are the kindest man I’ve ever met, and you treat me like I am as precious as gold or perils or diamonds. You needn’t worry about anything.”
He smiled and kissed her again, saying, “I am happy with you, Lianna. More so than any man could be with anyone else.” He needed the love, the touch, the kind and warm words that she whispered to him in the night. That was something he never would have had from Kiaran.
Kissing her neck, he felt her tense and wrap her arms around him. Yet, still, he felt forlorn.
Raven clutched the reigns of her horse tightly as she led it through the small encampment. The sun was lowering and it was a proper time to set up their fires and tents.
People hailed her happily as she walked and she would nod in response, though she wore no smile. That was usual, she thought. To be greeted so warmly after everything she had done to them. They should have hated her for giving their position away. It killed so many of them. Imprisoned them.
So many scars, deaths, and fears were brought about when Murdock's men came about. Even the choice to give in to them was a choice she didn't regret. She would have done anything if it meant saving her children.
No one seemed to begrudge her. They knew it was to happen regardless. They forgave her, still showing love and acceptance. It was a warming feeling, but not without side effects. Sickness in her stomach. Worry, regret.
Thus her purpose for working so vigilantly to correct her wrongdoings. To protect what was left of the Tribe.
Her eyes scanned over the people, hoping to find her children. She saw a few sick elders sitting at a fire, coughing or rubbing their aching joints. A group of horses in the pasture nearby whinnied as they ignored the young boy watching them.
She turned that way, taking her horse to him. He bowed to her and took the reigns. “Thank you,” she said, and left back to the camp.
There was a large group of children playing, most of them near her daughter’s age. She stopped to look over them in hope to find one of them.
Her eyes slowly shifted to the rest of the small tribe and her heart broke. She could still feel the tenderness of her scalp as she ripped hair from it while being held by Murdock’s soldiers. If it weren’t for her weakness, the Zeil would not have diminished as such in numbers.
“Raven,” Kane’s voice brushed through her like warm milk, soothing her edgy nerves. She shifted her blue eyes to him. His bronzed skin was covered mostly by his tunic, the sleeves ending at his elbows, his massive forearms showing his strength. He smiled as she faced him. “I am glad you and the hunter have returned.”
“As am I,” she said, looking back to the children. He came to a stop at her side and she gently crossed her arms. “There was much worry that last trip,” she said. “I must see my children.”
“Came across a lot of danger, I take it?” he grumbled unhappily.
At that moment, Tonna and Narhlo rushed to her, shouting excitedly. Tonna’s black hair was poorly pulled back, falling mostly about her round, smiling face. Her little brother, Narhlo bounded after her, red-faced from playing so hard.
Raven smiled widely as she doubled over to see them. She rested a hand on the side of Tonna’s face and kissed her forehead, then rested a hand atop Narhlo’s and kissed him as well. “My children, you have been good?”
“Aye!” Tonna beamed. “Mother, I want to be a fighter like you!” she touched her fingertip to Raven’s hilt and Raven cringed slightly, though only Kane could notice.
“Aye, well you should finish your lessons with your archery,” she replied as she stood back up. “You must learn to take care of yourself before you take care of others.” The girl pouted a bit and she said, “The chances of you actually having to fight are more slim than for you to have to hunt. And if you can hunt, you can fight.” She nodded and Raven said, “Go and play, my children. We will talk more tonight as we eat.” They agreed excitedly and dashed off.
Raven stood tall, one hand resting on the pommel of her sword, the other hand at her side, hanging limply. “Come with me,” Kane said softly, tapping her elbow. Her eyes darted to him and she followed him past several tents to the edge of camp.
Once out of the earshot of others, they stood quietly. Raven’s eyes drifted toward the people with a sad expression.
“What is wrong, Raven?”
“Why do you always ask me that when I am simply thinking?” she asked.
“Because you are not only thinking. I can read you where others cannot,” he reminded her. “What is wrong?”
She kept her eyes low, her blood burning. “...My weakness has halved our people,” she said softly. She had only told Kiaran and Kane on one account of what she had done. Never had she admitted her pain and anxieties that had come of it. This was the first that Kane would know what her heart felt. “I was weak...I am at fault for so many lives.”
“Raven...” he breathed softly. He took hold of her pointed chin and gently pulled her to face him. He waited for several seconds before her eyes met with his. Then, he proceeded by saying, “You were not weak...We are all certain of that.”
A faint smile was attempting to curl at the corner of her lips, but it stopped. Lifting a hand, she touched the side of his head where his hair was shaved away to symbolize his imprisonment. “I was not the only one to go through that,” she said. “Yet your torture was far greater than mine and you gave away nothing. You said nothing, and you nearly died.”
His massive hand grasped hers and pulled it from his head. “Let us not think on such depressing things,” he said softly as he leaned forward. “I want to see you.” She smiled as her eyes lowered to the side. He kissed her cheek then--keeping his head just above her shoulder--said, “I believe we should be married, Raven.”
She let out a short, soft chuckle as she wrapped her arm loosely around his head, her hand gently stroking his hair. “I believe it best to wait until we are all safe. I wouldn’t want to dally.”
“No dallying,” he said with an amused tone. He kissed the side of her neck. Heat exploded in swirling motions across her skin with his breath. “We can do it while we are already at a stop. We will not delay the journey.”
“Aye, but I believe we may have to fight. We should focus on that,” she breathed. This is when he stood and eyed her. “There was a large group of anonymous soldiers outside a nearby town.”
“They were not following Walter’s order, that much I can assure you.”
“How could you tell?”
“Do not question me, Kane,” she said with the slightest hint of jesting in her voice. “I have my ways...Besides, Quinn is one of the finest eavesdroppers--which is the reason I had him come. He spied and that’s what we’ve discovered: They are dressed as soldiers, though they bare no seal on them anywhere and I fear that they have already done a dastardly dead, for they were covered in gore and their weapons and shields looked scarred.”
“What have they done?” he asked.
“I do not know...” she breathed.
It remained silent as they took their own stances again, their hands to themselves and their eyes on the camp. “I still do not think it would be dallying,” he said flatly, his eyes watching her from the corners. She inhaled a bit as she looked to him and he asked, “Do you still accept my proposal?”
“I have kept your feather,” she replied, trying to conceal a smile, “So, yes.”
He gently tugged on her side and she stepped toward him, no space between them. He leaned forward, his fingers still gripping her. “If not the marriage, I still don’t think we should refrain...” he trailed off as he kissed the bow of her shoulder just where the collar of her shirt was.
As their skin touched she shrugged him off a bit. “Oh, now, Kane,” she hummed, “I am sure you can wait.”
“Why must I?”
“It isn’t like this isn’t something we’ve never done before,” she said in a hushed tone. They were each married before, so their anticipation of intimacy shouldn’t have been so bold. But, perhaps because they’ve been there before, it was even more needed.
“Oh, but not with you,” he replied, still persistent as ever, his kissing continuing.
“Why can you not wait?” she asked. “The others will be talking.”
“They already do,” he answered, their eyes connecting. “Let us at least tell them of our proposal tonight at the dinner. I want to refrain from hiding all of this talking and kissing. I am sick of disappearing just to see you.”
“You wouldn’t speak to me like that in front of them either way,” she replied. “It would show that you are partial.”
“They already know that I am partial,” he laughed. “They can see the way I watch you stride away.”
“Well, who could blame you?” she laughed, snaking her arms around his broad neck. She pecked a kiss on his lips then said, “However.”
“However...” she smiled and tilted her head. “You are persistent.”
“Is that a yes?”
After a long moment, she lowered her head in respect and said, “If that is what you wish...Go ahead and tell them.” He smiled and kissed her forehead. She shook her head as she began to walk away. Looking over her shoulder at him, she said, “You are a little hot, Kane...Perhaps you should go soak in some cold water.”
“I cannot help the effect you have on me,” he smiled widely at her.
She laughed as she disappeared.