Well, I began this soon after finishing Amira, but sort of got stalled on it. I just couldn't seem to get back into the story. However, I tried again today, and it seemed to flow easily. Here it is, and I hope ya'll enjoy it! Also, I thought I had made the name Amira up, but I looked it up and found that it's some sort of Arabic name (I think). But it's pronounced differently. Instead of Uh-my-ruh (my pronunciation), the Arabic one is pronounced AH-meer-uh.
Standing by the largest tent in a field of tents was a dark haired man, very tall and with a commanding air about him. Leaning against the tent was an axe whose double blades were shaped into the likeness of outspread wings, whose edges were sharp as razors and serrated at the tips of the wrought feathers.
The man wore a short tunic made of wolf skin. The wolf he had slain himself; two of its claws and two of its teeth had been fastened to his axe, more as a display than as a necessary part of the weapon.
His eyes were green, separated by a wide nose and bridged by a great tuft of black eyebrows. Across his back was a great bow made of ironwood, and a quiver of long arrows fletched with green, red tipped feathers. Two more of the wolf's claws had been mounted into the bow at each end, making it into a double headed spear for close combat. The arrowheads were made of jet black metal, barbed and as sharp as the axe.
The man was every inch a warrior, as could be told by one quick glance. His hands at the moment were opening and closing on the hilt of a long dagger which was strapped to his waist in a leather sheath.
All around him were other men, also warriors, some tall, some broad, all hardy, most dark haired, though some were gray headed.
One of them ran to the tent, a large bird on his arm. The bird's feathers were of the same kind as those used in the fletching of the arrows.
"Lord Garrow," he said to the tall man. "One of the messengers returns."
Lord Garrow took the green bird with its flame tipped feathers and took the paper which was tightly curled in its talons. He then stepped into the tent and read the message.
My dear father,
I sorely miss you and my sister, and long to see you once more. However, I fear that we may not meet in this world again, for I have fallen ill and find my strength and life rapidly flowing from me. I am in Relastin, where I have been living for nearly three years now, and in that time I have married, and we have a son. Oh, father! I love her dearly. And she is the reason for my message. In this place I did not learn their customs until after my marriage, and they are terrible. For, when the husband dies, his wife is sacrificed upon his funeral pyre. If it is at all possible, and if the war has perhaps come to an end, then I beg that you would come with all speed to Eldellin, a village which lies about sixty miles west from the border town of Therist.
It may be a hard fight, for no village woman is allowed to leave, but for my sake, and for our child, I would ask that you come and take both my wife and son back with you to Anarth if I do not live. He has no name yet, for children are not named until they are a year old, and the priests take him to be named after their own customs, which I would not have happen if possible. If he could be named after you, then he would have a worthy name.
My wife's name is Amira. She is an orphan, so you will have no parents to contend with; but the priests are powerful and will raise the people against you, so come prepared. I send you all my love, and bid you speed with the wings of Belvi and the blessing of Enderel.
Garrow looked at the date, and saw that already it had been two days since it was written. Perhaps his son had died already. Thank Enderel that the enemy had signed a truce but five hours ago, and that he was free to go to his son's rescue. He called in three of his men, including his daughter's husband, and explained in brief what they were going to do.
His son-in-law, Brenin, was broad shouldered and almost as tall as Garrow himself. He wore a short, wide bladed sword and he had a spear in his hands. Being from Tareth, he had blond hair instead of dark, and his eyes were gray.
"Mount up, men," said Garrow. "We have no time to lose. It took the bird two days of straight flight. It may well take us three, even if we move quickly."
They began at a quick trot, and rode all the rest of the day until the sun began to set.
At last, as darkness fell, they saw the lights of the town of Therist looming up before them.
"We can't stop here long," said Garrow. "Brenin, take the horses and have them fed and watered. The rest of us will find an inn and await you there. We depart in two hours at the latest."
Garrow stood by the inn's fireplace, warming his hands and moving restlessly. His men were seated around tables eating and drinking, talking in low voices, but he had not been able to eat more than a few mouthfuls. Would his son die before he got there? Would the wife be killed? At last, Brenin came in, finishing a large crust of bread.
"I'm ready, father," he said. "I ate on the way, to save time. Shall we go now?"
"Are the horses in the courtyard?" asked Garrow.
"Yes. Saddled, bridled, and ready."
"Up, men! We leave now."
They all went outside and mounted up.
"Now," said Garrow. "We must have a plan. I have met some of those priests before, and they are very difficult to deal with. Brenin, you look out for Amira and her son. When you find them, put them on your horse and ride away as quickly as you can. Don't stay to help us, even if we need it. Therwal and I will go for the priests; if one or two of them are killed, and the rest have a knife at their throat, the people will be less quick to do anything that will endanger their lives. The rest of you, take care of the villagers. Now, forward in the name of Enderel!"
They spurred their horses into a trot, and so they rode through the night.
The dawn broke behind them as they neared the great forests of Relastin. Hidden in their depths were countless small villages, ruled in groups of three or four by a common lord; none of them were joined all together, however, and word traveled slowly between them. It should not be hard to sweep in, take Amira, and leave before the villagers themselves knew what had happened. But this, of course, was assuming that they would arrive in time, an assumption much too great to make.
They entered the forests, still going west. Garrow had never heard of the village his son had named in the letter, but he was sure there would be other villages where they could get directions.
The sun was almost directly overhead when they came upon several houses scattered about in a clearing. Beyond them were more huts and cottages. Goats walked about untethered, eating whatever they could find, and chickens scratched in the dirt for seeds and insects. Not many people were out, and those who were looked up suspiciously as the travelers came into view.
Garrow nodded at Edric, who was the slenderest and least intimidating of the company; the young man dismounted and led his horse towards a group of men who sat throwing small blocks of wood in an apparent game of gambling. They looked up as he approached.
"Can you tell me where the village of Eldellin is?" asked Edric.
"Who are you?" asked one of the men. "Why are you here, and why do you want to know this?"
"Lord Garrow," said Edric, nodding to his leader. "Has a son in that village, and wishes to visit him. Also with Lord Garrow is his daughter's husband, Brenin. The rest of us go with him because he is our lord, and must follow him."
The men stood and faced Edric, casting their eyes about upon their various weapons nearby.
"You look ready for war," the same man who had spoken already said.
"We have recently come from one," answered Edric. "Where is Eldellin?"
Garrow and the rest of his warriors rode slowly forward, waiting to hear the answer.
One of the men pointed over his shoulder, slightly north-west, down a long and narrow path, past the last house and into the thick trees.
"That way," he said. "Not far."
Edric bowed and mounted his horse, keeping his eyes on the villagers. Together, Garrow and his company rode out of the village. As soon as they were beyond it, Edric heaved a sigh of relief.
"I didn't like the looks in their eyes," he said. "I thought they would challenge us to a fight right there."
"But thank Enderel, they did not," said Garrow. "Now, men, haste! We are near, but if we come too late, it will all be for nothing!"
They could not put their horses to a gallop along such a narrow path, and Garrow was nearly bursting with impatience. They seemed to be going with all the swiftness of a snail.
At long last, however, he saw another clearing ahead, filled with cottages and huts. As they emerged into the village, they realized that an unearthly silence reigned. They could see no one at all, but smoke rose from many of the houses, and a few animals were there as well. Garrow put his hand up and signaled for silence, and then he went slowly forward.
"Brenin, dismount and lead your horse. All of you, draw your swords. The rest of us will leave our horses here, and Edric, you stay with them. Come, and may Enderel be with us."
They all proceeded on foot. As they neared the center of the village, they heard voices, and, after coming around a bend in the path, they saw a large crowd of people, gathered around a building.
Garrow's heart stopped as he saw a girl, hands tied behind her back, standing on a pile of kindling wood. A priest was just taking a lighted torch and, as Garrow strode forward, the torch was thrust behind the girl. He heard her cry something out, something in which he heard the name, 'Enderel'.
Brenin leapt towards the pyre with drawn sword, a battle cry rising from his throat. Garrow thrust his way through the startled crowd and threw himself on the priest by the pyre. Therwal did the same with another priest.
The surprise of the assembled people turned to anger, and they moved towards the small band in force. Garrow looked up, and saw Brenin in the leaping flames, dragging the small form of the young woman off of the pyre.
He gritted his teeth and set his dagger point against the priest's throat.
"Tell your men to put out the fire!" he roared. "Or I will kill you!"
But there was no need for this; Brenin, carrying the body of Amira, stood for a moment taking a deep breath. Then he struck a path through the men who stood, rooted to the spot at the sight of their head priest held at knife point.
"Come, you fools!" cried the priest, struggling in vain against Garrow. "He dare not touch me, lest the gods take human form and destroy him!"
Garrow pressed the tip of the dagger closer, and blood trickled slowly down the priest's throat. He was waiting until he thought Brenin would be mounted and riding out.
"Take him!" the priest shouted angrily. "Do not fear his threats!"
Garrow nodded at Therwal, and made a cutting motion with his left hand. Therwal killed the priest he held with a swift thrust of his sword, and the people stepped back fearfully. The head priest looked stunned.
"I call upon the gods!" he said at last, raising his hand towards the treetops. "Destroy these men!"
Nothing happened. Garrow counted to thirty under his breath; Brenin would have had plenty of time by now to make his escape. Then, with a sudden movement, he threw the priest into the fire that still burned a few feet away.
"Your own draught you shall drink!" he called as he departed. "Perhaps the gods will save you!"
He beckoned to his men, and they followed him at full speed towards the edge of the crowd. Suddenly, Garrow remembered something.
"Orren's son!" he said.
The women of the village, standing in a tight and frightened knot, heard him, and one of them came timidly forward, carrying a baby boy.
"This is Orren's son," she said. "Take him! You must be the spirit of Orren, for you look enough like him."
"Nay," said Garrow. "I am his father. I thank you. Farewell."
He hastened away; he and his men mounted, and rode out of the village. Not far ahead, they met Brenin; he had laid his cloak on the ground, and put Amira on it. The ropes which had tied her hands he had cut, and he was putting salve on them. Garrow dismounted and bent over her.
“Is she alive?” he asked.
“Yes. And I believe she will live. But her hands are hurt badly.”
“Thank Enderel,” Garrow breathed.
He set his men around the place to guard it, and then he looked down at the babe in his arms. It’s bright eyes were open, and for a moment, Garrow was taken twenty years back, to holding his own son and looking into his eyes. He bent down and kissed the boy gently on the forehead.
Brenin spoke at last.
“I think we can go on,” he said. “I’ve done what I could for her hands. My wife will be able to take care of her until she is fully recovered.”
“Let us go, then,” said Garrow.
Brenin took Amira up into the saddle in front of him, careful of her hands, and they rode. They skirted the other village they had gone through, to avoid questions, and as the sun was setting they had come to the edge of the forests. Anarth’s wide fields lay before them, and the sun shone behind.
Amira woke up, and found herself on a soft bed. Curtains hung around it, but one was slightly open, and through it she could see a comfortable room. Looking down, she saw that her hands were wrapped in bandages.
“What has happened?” she wondered. “Where am I?”
A woman’s face, framed by dark, curling hair, came into view. A kind, gentle, motherly face.
“Why, Amira,” she said, in an accent strange, and yet not so strange. “You’re awake at last!”
The accent was the same as Orren’s. Could it be? But no! She had stood in the flames. She had lit the torch with her own hand. What was this joy?
“W-wait!” she stammered. “Where am I? Wh-who are you?”
“You are in Brenin’s house, and I am his wife, dear,” said the woman. “Brenin is the brother-in-law of your husband.”
“Oh! H-how? Wh-what?”
“There, now. Lie back down. I will tell you everything.”
Amira learned that she had been there for three days, and that her hands were beginning to heal. Then, as the story was finished, Brenin’s wife left the room for a moment and came back, bearing in her arms a little boy.
“My son!” she cried, holding her arms out for him.
“Orren wished for him to be named after his father, Garrow. Yet, I wish for him to be named after my husband. I believe I shall name him Garren, for then he will have both names together.”
Her eyes filled with tears, and she bent and kissed her son over and over.
“Oh, Orren!” she said softly. “If only you had lived. We should have been so happy, here.”
Brenin’s wife went out quietly, leaving them alone. The sun was rising, and through the window, Amira could see the rolling green hills which Orren had told her of. Another house stood not far away, and outside the door stood a tall, broad shouldered man. As she watched, she saw Brenin’s wife go to the man and speak to him, and they both turned towards Amira’s window.
Her heart almost skipped a beat; he looked so much like Orren. A moment later, he came into the house, and stood by her bed.
“Welcome to Anarth, daughter,” he said.
And, taking her bandaged hand, he kissed it. Her heart felt full to overflowing. Could anything sorrowful ever happen in a land such as this?