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Aiding the People
As winter approached, Bronherrn became dedicated to the Zuthan people. He got out to meet them. The more he connected with his former enemies, the more he realized how wrong his people had been about them.
Each blistering day he braved the slopes to reach the ailing farmers. Their struggles led him to understand how harsh they had been toward his people. He struggled to wholly forgive his father’s death, but the deepening bonds he held for this land worked to clear away most of the bitterness.
Being with the people took up much of his time. He watched them, spoke with them, aided in their daily chores. His attention remained diverted from everything else until he sat down to eat with Prillani each night. She warmed to him as he grew more friendly with her people, but over time Bronherrn wished to make some changes for their benefit.
Despite his intentions, Prillani grew suspicious.They argued over what should be done as winter swept in to chill the lands with raging snows.
“If you would care to come with me, you might understand.” Bronherrn fixed his eyes on her dark gaze.
“I understand my people and my land. I have enough to attend to here.” Prillani sat tall at the head of the grand table.
Bronherrn stabbed into his meat and held it up on his knife. “Then you understand that your people are starving while we dine on this.”
“There is little to do this time of year. You shall kill yourself if you keep going out there.”
Bronherrn grimaced and took another swig of ale.
Prillani cut her food into little tiny pieces. “Do you not think it pains me? I love my country, my people. But they are not the only ones starving.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Bronherrn stared up at her.
“I need you here with me. I am deprived of your attention.”
“My attention? We are their rulers. Until every one of them is cared for, I cannot sit around offering you my attention.”
Prillani grasped her goblet of wine and stared at him. The grace in her poise caused him to fear that he would never be able to rule with her, but only under her. “We have plans for the spring. There is hope.”
“Plans?” he mumbled to himself working to fight her hold on him. “A lot of good they do now.”
“We have a wedding to look forward to, and…I miss you.”
It had not occurred to him that she cared what he did with his time. He had thrown himself into aiding her people and be worthy of their union. “You miss me?” A smile curved his lips. The corners of his mouth continued to round into a broad grin until he leaned forward. “You miss me?
“Yes.” She sat back refusing to meet his gaze.
“I can attempt to pull back my efforts for a time, but I cannot promise to sit around planning with advisors.” The idea of spending more time at the palace unnerved him. He was not suited for all of the flamboyance; the costumes and the ceremony of every action, but to be closer to Prillani made the chill in the air seem more like a spring breeze.
She accepted his offer and lent him her company. Instead of following the farmers each day, he learned more about Prillani and her history.
The more he came to understand the Zuthans, the more he missed his homeland. As spring awoke, Bronherrn ached to return to the mountains. He found himself missing his own kind and their simplier way of life.
At times his mind drifted to Aethelwyn. To combat this, he busied himself with the tasks that had waited for an entire season. He went to the people with baskets of food he had saved from palace meals, whatever salted meats and aged cheeses had not gone bad.
Prillani caught him. “What are you doing?” She stood at the door. Her figure did not block it entirely, but her commanding presence made her seem more imposing than ever.
“As much as I can.”
She furrowed her brow and put her hand to her chest. “Do you think me a coldhearted ruler?”
Bronherrn cocked his head and softened his grip on the loaf of bread in his hand. She shut her eyes tight with shame. “Prillani, you seem misguided.”
“I have gone out. I am not blind to what is happening.”
“Then why do you oppose me?”
She shook her head and regained her posture staring ahead. She peered through him. “You have no opposition. But if we feed them, they will not feed themselves.”
“Feed themselves? The land is barren!”
Prillani stamped her foot. “I am the Chieftess.”
“And I will be your husband.” He stepped forward. “My people know how to cultivate land. We can aid you.”
She let out sigh so powerful it echoed through the halls. “You have an unquenchable love of duty.”
A beam of light pierced through the high window at her side making her face glow. He looked her over and found it near impossible to fight off a smirk. “It is my calling.”
“Then do what you do best.”
Bronherrn brushed his fingers over the dagger at his side.
“Instruct my warriors. Train them with more constructive methods.” She folded her hands over her silken gown.
“Your warriors?” He drew closer to her.
“Yes.” She held her chin high, but Bronherrn saw a slight waver.
He took this as his moment. He moved in and kissed her. The he pushed her away bowed. “They will be my warriors once I have completed my task. Can you trust me with that?”
She glared at him panting.
He reached forward to rub her arms. “I mean it for us.”
“Then I trust you with our warriors.”
Bronherrn leapt upon her kissing her face and neck.
“Enough!” She batted at him. “You must tend to your duty.”She walked over to the basket of bread he had meant to disperse and picked it up.
Bronherrn gazed on her lovely movements as she brought it to him with features as brilliant as flower petals. “Do what you must. But, be careful. We are a hard people.”
Bronherrn pondered the warning. He left to wander beyond the plateau, passing out broken pieces of bread loaves whenever he passed a home.spreading word that he was seeking to work with all the fighting men.
When they came together, it reminded him of his days in the Ferillian town. Everyone had skills, but they were more disorganized than he remembered. The winter had left them unpracticed. He paired them up, drew from his past experiences to aid these men’s efforts. Each time he swung a blade before these people he remembered that they had killed his father, his friends. With one action, I could wreak havoc. The idea tempted him. But what would it amount to? His ire was replaced with pity and he felt the need to aid the many poor families.
The lack of female fighters cut into Bronherrn’s conscience. It made him wonder how his mother was getting on without him. He wondered how his people fared in his absence. Practicing thrusts and cuts felt stiff and lifeless without the cunning of his feminine companions.
He found relief when Prillani came to watch as the ground began to warm with fresh grasses and the sweet hint of awakening blossoms gave the air a fragrance that bewitched Bronherrn. It tickled his senses and lightened his anxious need to drive the men harder. He called a halt and gave the warriors a rest as he went to speak with his bride. “Where are your women warriors?”
Prillani glanced at the men, watching them while working not to stare. “I have only been in power a short time. The changes I have made need to be accepted by the people on their own terms. I cannot go to every woman and try to convince her to leave her family for our benefit.”
Bronherrn nodded scratching at his beard. He remembered his mother’s struggles. “And what of you? Will you continue to fight with me?”
“With you. I am always fighting with you it seems.” The curve of her lips enticed him and he pulled her to him for a momentary kiss before turning to reengage his men.