Paladin - the path north volume 1

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Chapter 11

Tar’vid sat at the head table that stood upon a small raised platform, still finding it hard to believe he was the not only chieftain of the Jakken but celebrated as well. One by one the lords of the surrounding villages had knelt and offered him their sworn oath, to follow him loyally until death. Bordin stood nearby, as he had done ever since the duel on the bridge, refusing to take a seat beside him. Tarquin sat on his left, Tar’gorth to his right. Both had partaken in copious amounts of the local mead and were quite drunk. The other soldiers Tar’gorth had brought were also enjoying themselves, mixing with the Jakken people happily under Svein’s watch. Rorholm and his younger brothers stood guard at the base of the platform with their short swords. Bordin and Tarquin were still sceptical of their loyalties, but Tar’vid believed in the sincerity of their oaths and would hear nothing of it.

“More wine my chieftain?” Languardia asked, leaning over to refill his goblet.

She leaned in so close he could smell her perfume, like a fragrant flower he thought, her hair brushing against his cheek.

“Perhaps, a little more,” he replied nervously as he became flustered... how much wine had he drank exactly?

The Jakken looked to him with each refill until he raised is goblet in a toast... he wasn’t used to alcohol at all and he wasn’t thinking clearly at all.

“Come on, my friend, you’ve earned the right to have a little enjoyment,” Tarquin slurred, reaching out to grope Languardia.

Tar’vid batted his hand away sharply, letting her finish topping up his goblet unmolested. Tarquin was pretty lecherous when he was drunk.

“I shall do so, on your promise that you’ll stop trying to molest my serving staff,” Tar’vid replied harshly, though his own words were slurred now.

“I make no promises, my friend, but... I shall damn well try my best,” he said before standing unsteadily to his feet.

Tarquin rang his knife on the inside of his goblet, the hall stopping its activities to look at him.

“Friends! New and old. Our chieftain, Tar’vid, has brought our peoples together in the greatest fashion I’ve seen in all my years, now, raise your cups. To chieftain Tar’vid!” he proclaimed, raising his goblet high and sloshing wine onto the table.

“Chieftain Tar’vid!” Roared the room as they all downed their cups in one.

Tar’vid drained his own goblet, perhaps stupidly as he followed suit. Again Languardia filled his goblet, her soft breath tickling his ear as she seemed to lean in ever closer.

“Are you feeling alright, my chieftain?” Bordin asked, suddenly standing beside him.

“I’m... really not feeling so great,” he replied slowly, his thoughts swimming as he struggled to concentrate.

“Perhaps we should get you rested, It has been a long day after all” Bordin suggested, placing a hand on his shoulder.

That seemed like a prudent plan, he could just sleep this off and suffer through tomorrow as everyone else would.

Before Bordin could subtly usher him away, Tar’gorth stood and Tar’vid groaned, knowing exactly what would come next.

“When I first arrived here in the north” he began. “I was suspicious of all of you, but now, having been amongst you... You’re all the greatest people I’ve ever met! To Tar’vid!”

Again they shouted his name, many perhaps unable to comprehend Tar’gorth’s drunken words, but they looked to him once more and he followed suit, gasping at the effort as the others drained their cups. It seemed Bordin had been foiled as Languardia leaned over once more, his eyes drawn uncontrollably to her now open cleavage, had her dress been that open before? He sighed and leant back in his chair... had he been staring at her... by the gods what was wrong with him?

“Have I displeased you?” she asked him softly, her face seemingly inches away.

“Not, not at all... I, I’m sorry I stared at you... your so pretty and I’m rather... I mean...” he said in a ramble, falling over his words... as unintelligible as they were.

“There’s no need to apologise, you’re my chieftain... I’m yours to do with as you please” she whispered seductively in his ear.

Tar’vid couldn’t think of a response, he needed Bordin to get him away from here... it wasn’t safe after all.

Tar’vid woke up and pressed his palms up against his pounding head if this was to be a regular thing he was going to need a way to politely decline toasts in the future. As Tar’vid began to stretch he noticed a thin, pale arm draped across his chest and turned his head slowly to see Languardia lying next to him naked, her head resting against his chest as she slept, her red hair glowing in the morning sun. He froze in horror, realising he’d betrayed Luna, he’d never felt so ashamed in all his life.

“You seem tense,” Languardia sighed as she snuggled up against him, pressing her soft lips against his shoulder.

Tar’vid stayed silent, he wasn’t sure what to say... what to do. He’d always prided himself on his virtue, on his pride as a Paladin... that Tar’mine believed in him. Tar’vid now felt he destroyed it all in a single night, the man he strived to be washed away.

“If it’s about your wife, you shouldn’t worry. These things happen, besides, you’re going to be here a while...” she said before kissing him and sitting up, throwing aside the bed covers.

“I know you’re not of the north, my chieftain, but I’ll always be here for you... and your needs,” she said with a short curtsy before pulling on her dress and leaving his bedroom.

Tar’vid lay in his bed until Bordin entered, feeling relieved now that Languardia had left.

“My chieftain, it’s time you were up. There are matters of governing to see to,” Bordin told him, though he seemed no worse for last night.

Tar’vid sat up, wallowing in self-loathing wouldn’t help him now, and perhaps attending to these matters would take his mind off last night. He dressed quickly before making his way out of the room. Bordin led the way to the main hall as he followed behind, trying his hardest to look upbeat, the combination of a hangover and his affair made it difficult though. Tar’vid noticed a large presence of guards posted around the living quarters, before spotting Languardia, twirling her hair innocently and smiling as she carried out her duties.

“You could have picked worse,” Bordin remarked, noticing his gaze lingering on her.

“Is it so obvious?” Tar’vid asked, feeling ashamed that he still wanted her.

“With the noise, you two were making, I’d be surprised if the whole of Windholme doesn’t know by now,” Bordin said with a chuckle. “She’ll make a good wife, as long as you can keep a rein on her ambition of course.”

“I... I already have a wife Bordin, I already feel terrible about last night,” he replied weakly, dreading that future conversation.

“Take her as a second wife, it’s common around here. If you should be killed, wouldn’t you want a large family to carry on your name, my chieftain?” Bordin asked, as though the concept was entirely outlandish.

Tar’vid had never thought about wives and children in such a way. The society he had been raised in prized fidelity to a single partner, though truth be told, few people stuck to such principles for long. Almost on cue, Tarquin appeared beside him, a smug, knowing look on his face.

“Busy night, my friend?” he asked with a grin that Tar’vid could only describe as evil in nature.

“Quite, and it’s all your fault, with those damn toasts. I have half a mind to have you and Tar’gorth tossed in the cells,” he replied without humour.

“I can arrange such a thing,” Bordin chimed in, almost expectantly.

“We’ll see how the day goes,” Tar’vid said as they entered the hall.

He ascended to his chieftains chair, Bordin and Tarquin taking up flanking positions as the previous council took their seats, arranged in a semi-circle around a small fire pit. Each introduced themselves in turn, all of them wishing many sons upon him, he thought about chiding them, but it was part of their culture, and not worth the hassle. Instead, he thanked each of them in turn, questioning each of them on their role on the council and how it related to the Jakken as a whole. It turned out that all fourteen of them were necessary to run the tribe, there were the obvious positions of Jarl of finance, grain, war and law. But others that Bordin told him were of equal import, like the Jarl of ceremonies and religion. Tar’vid, was, in turn, questioned by them, and thankfully his answers to their questions seemed satisfactory. They broke off the council for lunch, resuming a few hours later until finishing late at night. The end consensus being, that the current administration of the Jakken was performing well and that Tar’vid was, as far as they were concerned, well suited to rule, though, from his glimpse into the running of Windholme and the Jakken, he was merely a strong figurehead. Tar’vid bid them a good evening, waiting until the hall was empty but for Bordin and Tarquin.

“How do you think that went?” he asked, lounging back in his chair exhausted.

“I think it went better than I expected it to, my friend. You seemed to win them over well enough,” Tarquin said happily as he stepped down from the platform, helping himself to leftovers from lunch.

“I will grudgingly agree with your odd friend, my chieftain. They have accepted you surprisingly well, though perhaps it’s because you’ll leave their power base be. Maintaining the status quo is in their best interest after all.”

“At least that’s done with for now, what’s on the schedule for tomorrow?” Tar’vid asked less than enthusiastically.

“Tomorrow, my chieftain, is Hajerfel, our day of rest. There will be no work, or appointments” Bordin replied, causing Tar’vid to smile broadly.

“That’s great news, then I bid you good night,” he said happily.

Standing from his chair with a stretch and walking briskly from the hall. As he entered the living quarters, he passed by the kitchens, spotting Languardia and several of the other serving girls laughing, why was he doing this... he had to leave her be, once was bad enough. Then she spotted him, Languardia’s smile lighting up her pretty face.

“I will take my evening meal in my chambers please,” he said, feeling deeply embarrassed at being caught staring again.

“Of course, my chieftain,” she replied a moment later with a curtsy, the other women giggling uncontrollably.

Tar’vid entered his room a moment later and closed the door behind him. He propped Torgard by his bedside and sat on a stool beside the only window into the room, the light of the full moon shining in. Tar’vid wasn’t sure how long he’d been looking out over Windholme when Languardia entered with several bowls and a pitcher set upon a wooden tray. She placed it down on a table nearby and waited patiently.

“Is there anything else you require, my chieftain?” she asked after a few minutes, her face seeming to sparkle in the moonlight.

“Not for now, thank you,” he replied with a half-hearted smile.

Of course, there was something he wanted from her, but he couldn’t betray Luna any further.

Languardia curtsied and left, then, after a few minutes, he started to pick over his food, though he had no wish for it now. After a short while he abandoned it, taking the pitcher of wine and a goblet, he poured a full cup before draining it in one go. He sat there by the window for a long while, contemplating whether to pay a visit to the Paladin camp tomorrow or not. As he began to undress for bed, he heard the door creak open slowly as Languardia entered, moving stand at the opposite side of the bed.

“Can I help you?” he asked after a moments silence, though he knew full well what she wanted... what he wanted.

Languardia didn’t say a word, allowing her dress to fall away before sliding herself under the bed covers and looking up at him innocently. Tar’vid climbed into bed beside her, but before he could speak, she placed her forefinger on his lips.

“Before you say anything, please hear me out,” she asked gently.

Only when he nodded in response did she remove her finger.

“I know you wish to stay loyal to your wife, that last night was a mistake... but my fate is tied to you now. Everyone here knows that you made me a woman and no other will now take me for a wife now,” she told him with tears in her eyes.

“I can’t betray my wife again Languardia, not even for someone as beautiful as you,” he replied softly.

The knowledge he’d ruined her life as well was too much to bear. She smiled at his words, though tears continued to run down her cheeks.

“I suppose I should thank you, really, had you been any other chieftain, my brothers would be dead, with my sister and I being raped until we were no longer of use... You’re a good man Tar’vid” she told him, before kissing his cheek lightly and starting to climb out of bed.

“Wait,” he said quickly, catching her arm. “You can stay here, with me. Just... I can’t be with you again, my guilt is so great already...I hope you understand.”

She nodded quietly and slid up next to him, feeling her bare skin up against him.

“I promise not to try and make love to you, my chieftain,” she whispered in his ear.

Tar’vid lay there trying to imagine Tar’gorth naked to still his mounting lust. Languardia nestled against him further, pulling his hand down to rest on her hip.

“Good night Tar’vid” she whispered.

Tar’vid cursed the Gods silently as her arms wrapped around him, he’d get no sleep tonight.

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