Previously, Elektra and her brothers began their journey and are headed toward the family homestead. Elektra is uneasy about seeing her father, Kratos, and having to explain her predicament. She reminisces about her first meeting with Rurik, and the stormy relationship that ensued. They are now nearing their family home.
At the base of the valley was a stream, and we stopped to water the horses and fill our water bladders. Dusk was setting in, and the sun was slowly falling behind the familiar ridge of mountains.
“We’re almost there, little sister, are you ready?” asked Tilliam. “How are you feeling? Has your strength returned?”
“I could use a hot bath and some clean clothes.”
“We’ll be there soon enough, and Mother can soothe your scrapes and bruises with cool ointments. She can take a look at the lump on your noggin, too. I think you’ll be good as new in no time,” he smiled.
“I can’t wait,” Uzziah said flatly. “Father will have tons of chores for us to help him with before we head out to find Rory. That is, if he decides to go.”
“Oh, he’ll go. He wouldn’t miss the excitement, and the opportunity to be in charge of us, again,” said Tilliam. “I think he’ll see some changes in us, though.”
“I will not be taking any orders from him,” I quipped.
“Let’s see how things go when we get there. No use getting worked up about it now,” said Tilliam.
Sweet Tilliam, always the peacemaker, always a ray of sunshine in the worst of times. I couldn’t ask for better brothers. Though our pride kept us silent most of the time, we were there for each other in times of need. Few words needed to be exchanged as our actions conveyed the truth.
We mounted our horses, crossed the clear stream, and headed out into the open valley. Father had fenced off some new pastures for the horses and sheep, and the crops were healthy and strong. The cool evening breeze and the orange-purple streams of color crossing the western sky pulled at my heartstrings. Though I dreaded the meeting with Father, the familiar road we traveled felt comforting.
The house sat on a mountain ridge just above the valley. We turned onto the gently sloping path that led up to the precipice. The horses were tired, but took the rocky incline in stride, sensing that we were nearing the end of our long ride. That familiar lurch of my stomach churning whenever I came home started to gurgle, and I felt sick. Night had fallen, and the sun was gone. Cicada’s filled the night air with their song, and I could hear the frogs belching amongst the trees. A dog began barking in the distance. That old hound knew we were coming. Father always had a hunting dog, and I was amazed old Blue was still alive.
The chimneystack on the old log home poured out its fingers of smoke. Mother came out on the porch, waving excitedly, and we stopped our horses at the shack Father called a barn. The old structure looked a bit dilapidated, the logs and boards holding it together had started to let loose, exposing rough holes under the roof and down the sides. We unsaddled the horses and let them out into the fenced-in pasture where they found the water trough. Uzziah pitchforked a pile of hay close inside the fence. We grabbed our packs and weapons and made our way up to the house. Old Blue followed on our heels, wagging his tail and bounding up the little hill.
“Elke! Tilly! Uzzi! Mother came down the porch steps and hugged each one of us tightly. “We have been waiting your arrival, and I’m so happy to see you. Your father is inside, and we have supper waiting.”
Mother looked me up and down; she eyed the bruises on my face and neck, and the limp as I walked in the door. “Come, Elke, I have water boiling on the fire for a hot bath. Let me tend to your wounds.” I was grateful Mother and I would talk alone before facing my father. I let her take me into a side room where a wooden tub was half full of steamy bathwater. I relaxed, and let her mother me. The boys were getting settled in front of the hearth, loading their plates, and feverishly telling our tales to father. I dropped my clothes, mother helped me into the tub, and I settled back into the warm water as mother sat on a chair by my head and began to wash my hair.
“So, my girl, tell me what’s going on. I have yet to see my grandchild, Rory, and now I hear he has been stolen from you. Tilliam has kept us abreast of the troubles you have been having with Rurik. I’ve been worried sick about you, Elke, how could you stay away so long?”
“I’m sorry Mother, but you know why. Father disapproved of my relationship with Rurik, and when I took up with him he told me, ‘You have made your bed, now lie in it.’ I’d had enough of his judgment, his scathing comments, and his lack of support. It seemed easier to stay away. When everything fell apart, and I had to escape Rurik, I didn’t feel like I had any right to ask for help. I love you mother, and I have missed you.”
“You are with me now, and I thank God you are safe, and that your brothers are here.” She gently massaged my scalp and felt the lump where I had been struck. “You are lucky the blow didn’t open up the skin, but there is still blood swelling here, and some build up of pressure. The bruising will fade on your face and neck, and soon you will be looking like the beautiful Elektra, warrior princess, again!”
“I guess if I had consented to marry Rurik, I would have been something of a princess,” I smirked.
She finished rinsing my hair, and proceeded to examine my arms and legs, washing out the scrapes where I had been dragged into the tree hovel. I closed my eyes, as she began to hum, feeling like a child, again. When I got out of the tub, she spread ointment on my wounds.
“You are a mess, my dear. But, everything will heal quickly. This ointment has a touch of magic to speed your healing.”
“I didn’t know you believed in witchery and spells,” I laughed.
“There is much you don’t know about my healing powers. Kratos forbade me to teach my children what he considered to be black magic. But, I have always used my talents for good; for healing, and spells to keep us safe. I have never thought of it as witchery, and the Lord God, Our Creator, doesn’t seem to mind. I call on the powers of the Universe to help me in times of need.”
I was amazed and perplexed by her words. I remembered her using many herbs for things, but I never saw her practice anything I could name as magic, as a child. “Have you ever used spells to ward off enemies or to call on spirits in your practice?”
“How do you think Kratos and I have been able to keep this land and our home from being taken over by the greedy likes of Ryszard’s Kingdom? We will talk more about this later. Get dressed now, child, and come out to the hearth for some food and drink.”
“Thank you, Mother.” I looked at her with tears in my eyes, and she took me in her arms, holding me close and whispering everything would be all right. She left me to get dressed, heading out to talk with the men.
© 2016, Rebecca Braun. All rights reserved.
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