Previously, we were introduced to Uzziah and Tilliam, two of Elektra’s brothers. Elektra woke to hear them talking about her father, Kratos, and her third brother, Rubeus. They began to plan the rescue of Elektra’s son, Rory, who had been kidnapped by Rurik, Rory’s father.
I finished eating the pheasant, licking my fingers, and then took a long draw on the water bladder. The food was warming my body, and I could already feel my strength returning. The back of my head was still throbbing, but the headache behind my eyes was beginning to dim. Tilliam brought me a warm tea of crushed columbine seeds, chamomile, and purple coneflower.
“This will ease your head and swollen joints. We will talk more tomorrow. For tonight, get some rest. We will wake up early and head for Ryszard’s Kingdom. We will stop by Father and Mother’s house. Father knows influential men within the Ryszard Kingdom who may be able to help us.”
I looked at him in disbelief and pain. Facing Kratos was not something I wanted to deal with. He was my father, but I had very little feeling for the man. The last colloquy I had with him before leaving the household resulted in him asking me, “Why should you waste your time becoming a warrior like a man? You will only end up barefoot and pregnant, anyway.” I left that house and never looked back. Kratos had never understood my nature or the passions I held dear. Now, I would have to tell him of my child, and that his words were true. As strong as I had become, that man could tear me to shreds with a glance. I was determined not to let him break me, again.
I lay down in the lean-to. Though the blanket of feathers was soft, it did little to ease the discomfort of my body or mind. I closed my eyes, and all I could see was the smiling face of my Rory. As I drifted off between sleep and pain, moments with Rory raced through my mind. He was only four years old. His sweet face came running toward me, his tender voice so excited as he proclaimed, “Mamma, Mamma! Look what I found.” It was a fine piece of limestone, with nodules of flint and chert embedded in the rock. He already knew it held great promise for the arrowheads I could make from the flint. I hadn’t taken any time to think about his comfort, having been taken from his home by Rurik and his men. I knew Rurik would look out for his welfare and provide what he needed to make him comfortable, but would he console him when he cried? Would he hold him when he missed his mother? It made me sob for my own mother, Necia. Tomorrow I would see her. Then I saw Rory’s face red and puffy with tears, and fear overcoming him. We had to find him soon.
I woke up to the smell of a warm broth simmering on the fire. Tilliam and Uzziah had saddled the horses and were packing our gear. They had laid out the weapons and were deciding which might be the most effective in our quest. I saw my cherished longbow! I had left it back at the house when I had gone out hunting.
“While we were at the house we grabbed the weapons we could find. I knew you would want this bow,” said Uzziah.
I picked it up, sliding my hand across the smooth polished hickory. Kratos had helped me make it. Father’s craftsmanship could not be outdone, and warriors and hunters would come hundreds of miles to acquire a piece from him. Even though he disapproved of my hunting, and my plans to join and train with the Ryszard Kingdom warriors, he crafted this fine bow for me. He taught me what kind of wood would be best for different kinds of uses, how the length of the bow was important for the most powerful flights, and how hunting bows required less of a draw, but quickness and accuracy was essential. This longbow was made for battle. It wasn’t meant to be used on horseback, but on foot when hidden in the forest. Its heavy draw was deadly.
Uzziah had taught me how to hunt. I was only allowed to use a small bow and a slingshot, as child. He and I would scour the forest for squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and small birds. We would gut and skin the animals, then bring them home to Mother who would roll them in flour and season the meat with herbs and coarse salt.
“We found your quivers of arrows and brought them, too, along with a satchel of arrowheads and your tools” said Tilliam. “A warrior must have the weapons they cherish.”
“You have really thought this journey out,” I said. “Planning for everything.”
“When we found Freya dying and Rory gone, we knew the consequences would be great. Our biggest fear was not being able to find you, and if we did, would we find you alive,” said Tilliam. “Here’s some bread and dried beef to eat on the way. We need to head out if we want to make it to Mother and Father’s house by evening.”
Lilka was waiting, her deep brown eyes looking me up and down, and she whinnied softly as I strode toward her. I struggled to lift my packs over her backside, as my aching joints flamed. Lilka nuzzled my neck, fluttering my long black hair with a snort. I had pulled my hair back in a long braid, much like Uzziah wore his, and Lilka liked to mess up the top and pull out a few strands. We had been together five years. I had trained her myself, and the bond between us was a rare one. She watched my every move, liked to throw me around a bit in play, but when we were focused on a hunt or task she was disciplined and intense, following every command with power and grace.
“Be nice to me, today, girl. No rough stuff, I can barely move.”
I looked deep into her eyes, taking her soft muzzle in my hands, and felt her spirit fill me with peace. She harbored a ‘knowingness’, an ancient soul that often guided my way. I could see my Creator in the depths of her eyes and I prayed He would hear me now.
Oh Great Power, guide us on our journey. Be my words and ears today as I speak to my father. Make the path clear to save my son. Fill me with wisdom for the coming work that must be done.
There appeared a glint of light in Lilka’s gaze, and I saw vast mountains and rolling clouds fill the great expanse of a western sky. Rurik had often spoken of witches and spells, and a secret sect of the family clan that lived in the mountains a fortnight’s distance from here, further west along a coast of shining seas and thick forests. Would he have taken Rory there?
“Hey, Sis, stop communing with Yahweh, and climb up on that nag and let’s go” said Uzziah.
“Yahweh is your god, I’m not so sure he’s mine. The Universe shares a mighty Creator for all of us,” I mumbled under my breath.
Tilliam came over and offered his hands to boost me up. I grudgingly accepted the offer, realizing my pride was not worth the pain of lifting my bruised leg up any higher than I had to. I stepped one foot into his hands and swung the other leg over Lilka’s broad back, then dropped gingerly into the lightweight leather saddle. As worn and soft as it was, the side straps scraped my bruised calves and thighs. I was thankful for the breeches Tilliam had given me. I lightly squeezed my knees into Lilka’s barrel and reined her westward.
© 2016, Rebecca Braun. All rights reserved.
The author has granted WritersCarnival.ca, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.