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Aethelwyn leapt up before the first bird could sing the dawn’s praises. Bronherrn yawned and stretched as she went for her cape. “It’s time you are moved to your own quarters.”
“Why?” he asked.
“You know why.” The corner of her mouth twitched.
He meant to convince her. To somehow persuade her to let him stay and have her as his own, but somehow, he knew it would not be right. He stood and bowed to her. “If that is your wish.”
She cocked her head. An expression of disappointment escaped her for a moment, but she threw her shoulders back and stuck her chin out. “It is best.”
She left him with Xanthu for a moment and then returned with Hefeydd. “You remember Hefeydd. He is a trusted companion and I am sure he will accommodate you properly.”
Bronherrn did not like the way she said, “Trusted companion.” An ocean of jealousy rose in his breast. He scrutinized his acquaintance. Hefeydd had the same divine complexion as Aethelwyn, but with a darker glow. His midnight hair hung about his shoulders in perfect waves as if made to sit unflawed. It did ease Bronherrn to see that he was slightly taller.
He nodded to Hefeydd and met a congenial air of admiration. “I have heard of your many exploits, Bronherrn. They are impressive.” Hefeydd inched closer to him. “It is forbidden for our kind to fight. I would enjoy a tale or two, once you get settled into our new living arrangement.”
Bronherrn bit down his pride. “I would be glad to give you a few details.”
Hefeydd led him away. “My quarters are not very different from Aethelwyn’s.”
Bronherrn looked back to Aethelwyn, not listening.
She stood watching him─her face set─indecipherable. He held her gaze until they reached Hefeydd’s hut on the other side of the path not a few spaces over.
It was built the same as Aethelwyn’s, but it did not have her sweet aroma or Xanthu. Bronherrn flinched when the angry flapping of a great hawk whipped a breeze at him. It cried out as he entered.
“Hush, Fenaiel.” Hefeydd soothed the avian by offering it a biscuit of something.
“You shall grow comfortable with her.” He turned to Bronherrn and chuckled. “She has a mighty temper, but you cannot truly tame a bird and she is a loyal friend.”
Bronherrn stared at the hawk as she bounced on a perch in the corner, ruffling dust from her feathers. She grew quiet and Bronherrn did not know what to say. Thankfully, Hefeydd asked him about how he first came to be a warrior and listened like a child would watch a great elder.
They got on like this for weeks. When left to himself, Bronherrn went to seek Aethelwyn, but she was always just out of reach. He did see her once at a gathering with the other holy ones, but the priests and priestess kept him so engaged in conversation and merriment that he had not one moment with her.
Unable to offend the holy ones, who accepted him as a guest until the harsh winter beyond passed, he learned more of their ways and becoame friendly with a number of the men who sat with him each day. But Hefeydd was the only priest that earned his confidence.
One night Hefeydd got so carried away by Bronherrn’s stories with a fearful curiosity of the dark Zuthan priests that Bronherrn turned matters over to asking of Aethelwyn. “You are close with her?”
“Can you tell me why she behaves the way she does toward me?”
“And how is that?” Hefeydd’s dark eyes held knowing glimmer.
“One minute I feel that we are destined to be together and that she believes this to her very core,” Bronherrn stopped himself, feeling foolish.
“And?” Hefeydd encouraged him.
“You have seen how she avoids me now.” A new hurt accompanied the words. Saying it aloud made the pain the more real.
Fenaiel squawked lightly and flew over to rest on Hefeydd’s arm. Bronherrn marveled that her talons did not cut into his friend’s skin. He stared at the bird and she leaned her head closer to him. He scratched her neck and realized that she meant to comfort him by offering her trust.
“If Fenaiel is not concerned, neither should you be, Bronherrn.”
Two more days passed and Aethelwyn entered Hefeydd’s living space as if she had not avoided Bronherrn to simply ask him to come with her. Unable to turn down the invitation, he followed. She led the way to her familiar space where she had healed him with her touch and her love.
Once alone in the confines he stood with an awkward air.
“Spring is blossoming. You will be leaving soon.”
“Already?” he asked regaining his confidence.
“Must you behave this way all the time? I wish to bid you goodbye.”
He moved towards her with a fierce passion surging in every limb.
“Not that kind of goodbye.” She stepped back.
His frustration mounted and he stood still.
“I never expected to have to bring you here like this,” she said.
“And yet you claim to know the future.” He sat down on her furs beside Xanthu.
She rushed to his side. “Do not resent your fate. Embrace it.”
“Fate?” He laughed coldly, tired of this barrier that kept them apart. “You seem to be the only one guiding my fate. Why not guide it to you?”
She sat back. “Do not be cruel. I will continue to be a part of your life always.”
“But not as my own,” he raised his voice.
“Do you not understand Bronherrn? I belong to no one!”
The force of her words stopped him. “My apologies.” He dared to grasp her hand.
“Yes.” She kissed his arm leaning into him.
“So why not transport me away like you have done yourself?” he asked.
She stared at him in disbelief.
“You speak as if I have a journey before me, but I have seen you manipulate reality.”
“You seem ignorant of what is truly real.” She pinched him.
“Ouch.” He nipped her arm sensuously.
She tapped him with her hand as a mother would a child. “When I appear to you, I remain here in the physical world.”
“But I touched you, held you out there.” He rubbed his fingers inside the palm of her hand.
“You did so from beyond. What I felt was here, as you felt me there. When I overexerted myself, I was trapped between the two existences. It was very dangerous.”
“I can feel you no matter where you are?” He smirked.
“Please do not speak anymore.” She offered him a simple kiss then handed him his belongings.