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Bronherrn worked to remain steady. His mother beamed as she escorted him to the blacksmith to select his first piece of armor: an iron breastplate. He earned his right and his younger brothers stayed home to tend themselves. Upon reaching the small wooden construct, a leathery craftsman stepped out and scrutinized Bronherrn, sweat rolling into his beard. “So you are ready, eh?”
“Yes sir.” Bronherrn’s gaze fixed on the fire beneath the thin roof.
“Let’s get you fitted with a good piece, and size the straps just right, lest your father should have something to say about it.”
Bronherrn walked past the beams that sat barely strong enough to hold through a good wind. He never understood how the shack stood with such a slight frame and no walls, but it distracted him from the shadow of his father’s reputation. He planted his feet firm and pushed his shoulders back. The smith grumbled to himself and held up different pieces, but shook his head.
The rough scent of ale clung to the man and surrounded his skin. Bronherrn bit down a cough. He breathed in slow, but his mind drifted beyond the Ultain pass with his father. His hands desired the glory of holding his blade against the Zuthans. He craved the fight, for his people, his land.
He began to believe tht nothing would fit him when his mother pointed. “That one there.”
The blacksmith chuckled to himself. He held it against Bronherrn’s body nearly knocking him over. This time the steel molded against Bronherrn’s stomach and chest as if it had been forged for his frame.
“I should always trust your eye, Mara.” The Smith grinned at her and turned his gaze on Bronherrn.
“Ye look like yer father.”
“Thank you, sir.” A sideways smile broke free from Bronherrn’s steady lips.
“It is near perfection.” His mother punched the center of the breastplate.
Bronherrn leaned into the blow.
“I will trade you two casks of ale for it.”
Bronherrn bit his lip to keep from chuckling at the way his mother set her jaw. She would haggle as if born royalty and he found himself too restless to stand before the display awaiting the outcome.
“Two?” The blacksmith bellowed.
Bronherrn patted his mother’s shoulder. “Don’t let him swindle you.”
She nodded and he slipped away to look at various goods nearby.
A scrawny girl with plain braids hanging over each shoulder reached his side. She looked to be a more than a few season’s younger than him, but his eyes watered. An overpowering stench of goat drifted from her clothes, so he could not be sure. He blinked and stepped aside.
“I expect you are Bronherrn?” She said staring into his eyes coyly. Dirt flecks darkened her golden locks and the goat hair covering her dress.
“Yes.” He breathed out working to contain his nausea.
“My name is Wynell. My family herds goats not far from here. We got word that your warriors are in need and wish to send a supply. I imagine some meat will be greatly received.”
It is everything we need. I must obtain the animals still living so they can carry the supplies and I will not have to bother with choosing traveling companions. Bronherrn delighted in the thought of returning to the battlefield with more supplies than his father imagined, alone. “Thank you Wynell.”
“But,” she added.
He raised his eyebrows at her confident tone.
“I am to travel with you.”
He scrutinized her slight stature and laughed. “Are you a warrior?”
“Not as of yet.” She tossed her braids behind her shoulders and stuck her chin out. “But I have started training.”
“That is no matter. You are not prepared.”
She glared at him. “You shall never deliver my goats to the battlefield without me.”
“I have killed Zuthan men.” He leered over her. “I imagine I am equipped.”
She grabbed his arm. “Not without me.”
He jerked free of her grasp and froze as h is mother walked up, breastplate in hand. Her features lifted with triumph. The pride in her smile told of a haggling victory, but her expression dropped as she looked from him to Wynell.
Bronherrn stepped closer to his mother. “Mother, this is, Wynell. Her family has graciously offered some goats for the warriors.”
She bowed to the girl. “It is a great offering.”
“We are happy to do so.” Wynell’s eyes sparked with brilliance. “As long as I am allowed to deliver the goats with your son so I can tend my herd.”
“You have been trained in battle?”
“Of course.” Wynell grinned to reveal a chipped front tooth.
“And you do not intend to fight, only to visit the warriors to get a glimpse of what you may come to know one day?”
She nudged Bronherrn and he grunted in disbelief.
“I was once like you.”
Bronherrn gaped at the glowing approval reflecting from his mother’s stare at the girl. “She’s a goat herder.” He held up his hands like that explained his reluctance.
Both Wynell and his mother turned their attention to him. He nearly shrunk under his mother’s penetrating gaze, but Wynell’s conceded air kept him steady. “You know nothing of my herd.”
“Our warriors are in need, my son. Any aid must be graciously accepted,” his mother added.
“I am a warrior, not a nurse maid.” He surveyed Wynell’s young features. Her round cheeks glowed like a baby’s.
“Bronherrn,” his mother balled her fists, “do not underestimate that which you do not know.”
He kicked at the ground and glared at Wynell. “You may come, but only to look after yourself and the goats, nothing more.”
“I shall send word to you as soon as we are ready. It should be no more than a few days.”
“Thank you.” Wynell smiled at his mother.
Bronherrn narrowed his eyes to slits. Lifting the breastplate out of his mother’s hands, he said, “I cannot believe you trust that girl.”
“I was once that girl, my son.” His mother walked with him turning her footsteps toward their home.
“She craves battle. You can see it in her eyes.” The fresh memory of Danarrus’s foolish acts chilled him.
“True, but once she gets a glimpse of it, I think she shall know what to do.”
Bronherrn bit the inside of his lip. Even his father always knew not to argue with her after she attended the market. She haggled for his armor and stood set on having her way.
When they reached their home, Bronherrn’s concerns were pushed back. Bombarded by his brothers, he had to shove them away like excited dogs. “Can I try it on?”
“You do not even have the strength to barely lift it.” Bronherrn chuckled at Druthleer’s pout.
“It is a well-crafted piece.” Grimhelden ran his fingertips over the edge and Bronherrn nodded. “How much did you trade, Mother?” Grimhelden asked.
“Two casks of ale.” She walked around them to the table, broke the day’s loaf of bread, and offered them some.
Bronherrn shook his head and grabbed his piece, eager to fill his stomach.
“Now ‘o’ll be able to ‘ut own ‘ore ‘uthans,” Druthleer was barely audible over his munching.
“If the necessity drives him to do so.” Their mother eyed him and placed a small morsel on her tongue.
“Are you afraid to return, Bronherrn?”
He stopped chewing and stared at Grimhelden. Swallowing slowly, he sat on the stool before the table. His mother handed him a mug and he took a large swig. “That I am, brother.”
“Truly?” Druthleer bunched up his face his piece of bread already finished. “I shall never be. Tell us more about the battlefield.”
“I think mother can do that.” Bronherrn took another bite.
She stared at the floor for a moment.
The guilt of having put his woes before her seeped in. “Unless?”
They all looked at him.
“You would like to hear of my first fight again.”
His brothers sat up with eager faces and his mother sighed with a grin. He retold it all, the journey, the anticipation; the unexpected. He embellished enough to entertain their curiosity until Grimhelden’s eyes went ablaze. “Let me return with you brother. I may be barely old enough to begin my training, but I must help in any way I can.”
The desperation in his brother’s voice swayed Bronherrn’s heart. A pang of longing bonded them. It ran in their blood. He nodded. “As long as mother agrees.”
She stood and walked over to the hearth to pick up her stitching. She sat down and began to work. “Keep away from the fighting. Deliver the goods and come home as carefully as you can.” She cast a grave look of concern on them.
“Thank you, Mother.” Grimhelden took another bite.
“What about me?” Druthleer whined.
“What about you?” Grimhelden mocked his brother.
Bronherrn laughed as their mother silenced them with a sharp glance. She gazed upon the youngest and said, “Your time will come, my boy. Be patient.”