She looked at herself in the dirty mirror. There was very little she could see, but she had to make sure she looked just right. Her heart was being torn, and she fought to keep the tears back, but her mind was made up and she had to remain true to her word. She was only 13 when her father, Earl Arrion, had informed her that her life would become a means of accomplishing peace. His heart broke that day as well, for he loved his daughter more than anything.
Her mother had died while giving birth to her, and although her father was young and needed a male heir, he did not have the courage to love another as he loved his wife. She was his only child, and would remain so.
"Elva." A maid came in with a flower, "Your father wanted you to have this. To wear in your hair." Elva gave her a sad smile, taking the flower in her hands before trying to strap it to her hair. The maid bowed slightly, also offering a sad smile before leaving her alone in the room again. It is what she asked for, she wanted to be alone before she walked into her new life where she would never be alone again.
Her father was seeking peace with Jarl Agnar, who only accepted the price of his daughter. Only then would he stop the raids on the villages. It was a tough decision for Arrion, but he knew his daughter possessed strength beyond that of any woman he has ever met, with the exception of his late wife, of course. She agreed, knowing that her father loved his people and would do anything to save their lives. Peace was a good thing, and Elva was willing to give away her freedom for it. They were her people as well, and she would not let them down.
Jarl Agnar has, or had, two sons. She was to be married to the eldest as soon as she turned 21. However, the Jarl died in battle, leaving his sons in charge of his territory. The new Jarl Agnar insisted that Elva should be turned over to him now, even if she was only 20, a year before the agreed upon time. Perhaps that is what made this day more difficult for Elva and Earl Arrion, they thought they had more time. But isn't that how the story always goes?
She looked down at her dress, mentally rolling her eyes at it. Don't misinterpret, it was a beautiful dress. But, sadly, it was wasted on her. She despised wearing dresses and only wore them when her father asked her to, it was the least she could do. She sighed as she looked around her room, her chest tightened at the thought that it would be the last time she would be here. The wall by her bed was now covered in decorative weapons.
What a joke, she thought. Weapons were not made to be decorative, they were made for the artistry of combat. Knowing that she would be married off to the son of the Jarl, or now the Jarl, she convinced her father to let her train in sword fighting, or sword skill, as some called it. It was a secret endeavor, it would be to her advantage that no one would know of her capabilities, allowing her attacks to be a surprise. She had never actually pierced anyone's skin, and the mere thought of it made her stomach churn. What she enjoyed was the art, the movement of the sword, the ache of her muscles and the calluses that formed in the palms of her hand, evidence of her training and her hard work.
She prayed daily that she would never have to use her sword against anyone. But the knowledge that she was able to protect herself was comforting. She smiled at herself, knowing she had one trick up her sleeve. But that disappeared when thoughts of her new life, with her new husband, clouded her mind.
Earl Arrion, on the other hand was nervously pacing by the table in the hall. He shook his head and looked at his right hand man, Aart. "There is no way to back out of this anymore. I will forever live knowing that I gave up my daughter to a man I do not know."
"Lord, I will never act as if I know what you are going through right now, but it is your daughter- it is this marriage- that has kept the peace between our people. It is a sacrifice worth making." Aart was always there to reassure Arrion. There wasn't a single bad bone in his body and would always remain loyal to Arrion, regardless of what that entailed.
"Brother." Alden, Arrion's brother, who perhaps had too many bad bones in his body, walked into the hall, his hands behind his back and face as stoic as ever. "They are here, making their way to the hall as we speak." Arrion's face paled, he stopped his pacing as he nodded at Alden and Aart.
"It's time." His mouth was dry, and he had to stop his body from involuntarily shaking. He was a just Earl, feared in the battlefield and loved by his people, but when it concerned his daughter he was as weak as a kitten. Aart left the room to gather up the maids who would bring ale and food for the visiting Jarl and his men, Arrion wanted to make sure they were as pleased as possible for the sake of his daughter.
Suddenly, the large doors boomed open, revealing a tall man with about 8 men behind him. Each one marked with scars from battle, each one armed from head to toe, and each one scowling at the meek hall.
Earl Arrion swallowed the lump in his throat before he put on a facade of bravery. His bravery wasn't always fake, but as said before, when it came to his daughter, he was not the bravest. "Jarl Agnar, what a-"
"I am not Jarl Agnar." The tall man in the center interrupted. And no, he wasn't Jarl Agnar. The man that stood in front of Arrion and Alden was in fact Eksel, Agnar's brother. Both brothers were deadly, feared, worshipped and desired. Eksel, though, was the least loved. He was more feared for he was crazier, deadlier, and not at all happy. You might hear of Agnar smiling from time to time, but Eksel? He probably did not even know how to smile.
He looked piercingly at the Earl as maids walked in with food and ale. He turned and faced his men, shaking his head, annoyed at the fact that he was sent to pick up his brother's woman. Arrion once again collected his thought and brought his voice forward, "Well. We have prepared-"
"We will not stay long. Just give me the girl and we will be on our way." Eksel interrupted again, his patience wearing thin, not that he had any to begin with. He wasn't a social person, and avoided people at all costs, rendering his social skills uselessly indisposed. He was just here to do the job his brother had sent him to do, unwillingly but loyally nonetheless. He loved his brother, in his own way. Agnar stuck by his side and helped him in ways he would never admit to anyone. Everyone knew that Eksel was tormented, you could see it in his eyes, but by whose demons was the question no one knew the answer to. Agnar was the only one.
Elva jumped, startled by the loud knock on her door, "Elva? Are you ready?" She placed a hand to her chest, feeling her heartbeat slow down as she realized it was only Aart. She opened the door with a forced smile on her face. Her heartbeat sped up again, knowing that she was about to meet her future husband. She placed all of her thoughts at the back of her mind and told herself that she just had to take one day at a time. "You look beautiful." Aart placed his finger under her chin and forced her to look at him. Aart considered himself an uncle to Elva. Always doting her and helping her rebel in stupid ways against her father, but he only did so when he could ensure her safety. Truth is, he was just as terrified as Elva and Arrion at the situation. He loved Elva deeply and he will always miss her. His heart was also breaking at the thought of Elva with the Jarl, alone and unprotected.
She took his hand, offering herself support because her legs were shaking. He felt her sweating palms and offered a reassuring smile. She exhaled loudly, "Let's get this over with." Her stomach had not stopped churning since she put on the dress, and now she was more than eager to make it stop. She really did just need to get this over with. As they walked toward the hall, they both overheard Eksel's annoyed voice demanding that Arrion just hand over his daughter so he could leave.
Elva frowned at this. What little hope she maintained that Agnar would be loving and patient just disappeared into thin air. It was never that probable anyway, but that was Elva, she hoped. The lump in her throat grew greater, now all of her fears amplified. As they walked through the opening into the hall, the world stood still for 3 seconds.
In the first second, Elva saw only Eksel. Of course, she thought it was Agnar, for no one had told her differently. She was eerily comforted by the fact that her husband would at least be handsome. Although he looked frightening with his large and muscular frame, he was extremely satisfying to look at. His face held strong features, with a scar running down the length of his left cheek. His eyes were a beautiful brown, deep set under dark eyebrows. A long beard hung from his chin and tattoos crawled down his muscular arms. His hair was long, dark and wavy. She guessed she could do a lot worst. Now, she would only have to deal with his ghastly attitude.
In the second second, Eksel snapped his head up and saw Elva. His heart tensed at the sight, fortunately, he had become a master at hiding the little emotions he did feel. But, even he could not deny that she was beautiful. Her long brown hair framed her face perfectly, and she looked quite feminine and dainty with the flower in her hair. She was small, but not too small, big enough to hold her own. She also has brown eyes but they were paired with a small straight nose and small but plump lips. A red hue covered her lips and her cheeks. For this second, Eksel thought about running away with her, taking her from his brother.
In the third second, Arrion, Alden and Aart all became too aware of Eksel making his way to Elva. Aart isn't a warrior, and try as he might, he would have never been able to stop Eksel. He took very large strides and made his way to Elva, causing a gasp to escape her lips. No one had time to move.
As he stood in front of her, he eyed her up and down. He took in every curve of her body, the sight of her slightly tan but soft skin made him once again wonder how angry his brother would be if he took his bride. He scowled at her. She thought he was repulsed by her, he did it because it was the only way he knew to hide his arousal. In a hurry, he grabbed her by the waist and threw her on his shoulder. She screamed, slapping his back, yelling at him repeatedly to put her down.
Eksel turned to face Arrion one last time, "Thank you." Arrion stood there with his mouth open wide. He was at a loss for words, unable to move as he watched the man take away what was most important to him.