Previously, Elektra was found bound and gagged in the base of a hollow tree by two of her brothers, Tilliam and Uzziah. Her infant son was kidnapped by the boy’s father, Rurik, after his men killed her best friend, Freya, who was taking care of the child while Elektra was hunting in the forest. Elektra rested while her brothers made camp for the night. She has just woken up.
The pleasant aroma of grouse and pheasant roasting over the fire tickled my nose, and I realized I was ravenously hungry. I had been placed on a feather-down blanket in a small lean-to shelter a safe distance from the fire. Making an attempt to lift myself up to a sitting position, I winced in pain as swollen joints gave out on me, and I fell back down on the blanket. I lifted my legs slowly to see if I could bend my knees, comparing the pain to how it felt after being thrown by a horse. Though I had many bruised, tender spots, it felt as if I would be able to walk. Trying, again, to sit up, I heard my brothers talking angrily by the fire.
“Father will never agree to this. He gave up on her long ago. When she took up with Rurik, son and bastard prince of King Ryszard, it was the last straw. I can’t say I think any different. And look what has become of it. Another bastard child, and a brutal assault on our sister.”
“How can you be so cold, Uzziah? You know how we were treated as children. Elektra never received any respect from father, and you know it. The only way she could find her own destiny was to run away as soon as she was old enough to survive on her own. None of us paid any attention. You and I were long gone from home when she left. All of us deserted the family tree at one time or other. And Rubeus, he has never looked back.”
“Don’t go dragging Rubeus into this mess. He has made his way plain and clear. His devotion to his wife and children will never allow him to leave and come with us on this foolish quest to rescue Elektra’s son,” said Uzziah.
“His name is Rory, and he is your nephew. We need to call on Rubeus. Even if he refuses to come with us, he may have some insight as to how we can defeat Rurik and his clan.”
I grimaced at their words. They had all experienced their own kind of pain growing up. Each one of them had faced hardship and struggle in their investments and personal relationships. Not one of them was willing to sacrifice their pride and ask for help. Rubeus interacted with family, but he had built a strong barricade to keep out the likes of our family from poisoning his. I respected him for this. But, I deeply felt the loss of my youngest brother. He was almost dead to me. When Uzziah and Tilliam had left the homestead, Rubeus and I only had each other for protection against our father. We were very close, but not always in a loving way. Our loyalty to each other could not be broken. When Rubeus left home he joined the Warriors of Hagen. We kept in touch for a while, but then he married. His loyalties to me were forgotten.
My hunger was overtaking me, so I slowly and gingerly brought myself up from a sitting position to standing, hanging on to the lean-to for support. It was not strong enough to support my weight, and a few of the limbs broke off as I clung to the feeble structure. The noise of the cracking branches brought my brothers’ attention to me. I smiled weakly, and began to hobble toward the fire.
“So, what are you sad sacks up to? How the hell did you find me, or even know I was missing?” I said.
“Well, hello, beautiful. Nice of you to join us. Those purple bruises on your thighs go rather well with that blue tunic you are wearing. Matches your eyes,” said Tilliam. “We’ll have to find you some soft leather breeches to go with your outfit.”
“I’ve never been one to care too deeply about fashion, but that could work,” I answered. “Thank you for cleaning me up. Hell, thank you for saving me in the first place.”
“Freya sent out the word that you were missing. I convinced sad sack number one, over here, to come with me to find you,” said Tilliam, pointing to Uzziah. “What we found was Freya severely beaten and stabbed in the gut. She told us it was Rurik and his men who had done it, and that they had stolen Rory. She said you had gone hunting a few days before but hadn’t returned. Freya put up a good fight, Elektra, but there was no saving her. We were lucky to get to her before she died.”
“Freya was my closest friend. Rory and I took refuge in her home. We were hiding from Rurik.” Freya’s face filled my mind. I wiped the tears from my eyes.
“Here, have some pheasant. We need you strong enough to travel in the morning. There was a nice patch of birds nearby. We got several birds while you were resting, enough to hold us for a few days,” said Tilliam.
“It was the roasting smell of the meat that woke me up. I am so hungry!”
“Well, don’t eat too fast, and drink plenty of water. You were underneath that tree for several days with nothing to eat or drink.”
I looked over at my oldest brother, Uzziah. He was handsome with his long black hair braided and tethered down his back. His bushy beard was neatly sheared, starting to show a few strands of gray. He was lean and well muscled, always fit and trim. As an adult, I couldn’t remember seeing him without that beard, and sensed he kept it to hide the sensitive features reflected in his face as a boy.
“Hey brother, haven’t seen you in long while. It’s good to see you.”
“I’m glad we found you, Elektra. You are a worrisome creature. I hope to meet my nephew soon.” Uzziah shifted his weight stiffly from foot to foot, staring into the fire.
“Yes, this worrisome girl has grown into a daunting young woman. It’s been about five years since I saw you last. I am honored that you have come. I would not have thought you would want to get into this mess.”
Despite his standoffish behavior and serious tone, I knew that Uzziah cared for me. He was here now, that’s all that mattered. Though he was eight years my senior, he had taught me much as a child. We had shared a love for storytelling and music. He was critical and often bitter, but had many virtues, as well. Life had not treated him kindly in the ways of love. Due to his critical and frugal nature his wife had left him for another man. He loved her deeply, and I don’t know if he will ever get over it. He has two beautiful boys who are his pride and joy. Tilliam has told me they are strapping young men who show strength of body and heart. It has been so long since I have gazed upon their faces. They are young men now, and I realize how much I miss them.
“You have always been one to fight, Elektra. We will find your son.” Uzziah picked up his crossbow and sat on a rock by the fire to study it and clean it.
© 2016, Rebecca Braun. All rights reserved.
The author has granted WritersCarnival.ca, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.