Blood of the Ultains: The Tales of Bronherrn Chapter 35

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A New Life

Bronherrn walked Prillani around the length of the new settlement, before their people. Seeing the formerly feuding cultures standing together on the spot where they once fought warmed Bronherrn. He looked from the familiar faces of his Mother and brothers, to those of Prillani’s sisters and out to the crowd.

He squeezed Prillani’s hand as he glanced at her loveliness. Unable to keep from gawking at the lovely fibers of her skirt, he indulged his senses for a moment memorizing the sight of her. She stood in a dress of light tones simple enough to allow her natural beauty to shine through, but with just a few folds in the waist and skirt to fit her status.

He spoke the binding words with her before the great Cassani River and glanced at their new home. So many lives had been lost on this side of the river, but it was now consecrated as a place of peace where Zuthans and Ultainians could farm and raise their families together. The anticipation of the day made each moment seem too fast. The marriage ceremony blew past in a whirlwind.

Not even Raeimo’s mumbled remarks or Cerlias’ confused eyes could remove the encompassing sense of unity that helped Bronherrn stand tall. He smiled at his beautiful bride. Her grace held everyone’s focus. Her joy overshadowed the two sulking elders.

Bronherrn happily ate his fill and danced with his new wife until the guests began to retire. Glad to have the opportunity to share the rest of the night with Prillani alone, he took her back to their new house. He patted the doorway as they entered. It had become a symbol of life to him. Not only had he built the structure with his brothers, but hopes of raising children in it danced on the edges of his mind.

Prillani turned to kiss him, and he lost all thoughts.

She kept him contained for days. He took his leave and enjoyed the time to themselves. She offered him a tenderness he had never thought her capable of. She was gentler, more loving than ever.

It suited him well, but after a few days, he began to miss her fiery nature. “I had asked a young warrior Chieftess to marry me; you have not a spark of fierceness in you. Where has my former rival gone?”

She slapped him playfully. “She is here as always. Test her patience if you will.”

He grasped her by the waist and kissed her neck. “If you are that same woman who once saw me in chains, then tell me, how is it you accept this humble two room shack over your palace?” Before she could answer, he kissed her.

She grasped his hands and stared at them.

The missing portion still angered Bronherrn. “I would have built our home better if I were what I once was.”

“No.” Prillani stared into his eyes with a divine light. “You are better for these scars.” She ran her hands along the marks on his face, the missing portions of his ears.

For a moment, he watched her with a gaze of stone, but the love in her eyes softened him. “I am ashamed of what my father did to you. Even so, it brought us together. You cannot deny that. From pain you have found some happiness.” She did not turn her eyes from his and he sat silent pondering what she had said.

 He could not express his gratitude for her wisdom. He merely pulled her to him and kissed her softer.

***

“You must work harder if you desire to best me.” Bronherrn smirked at his brother as they sparred near the banks of the Cassani.

Grimhelden thrust forward cutting the air repeatedly. He had only just missed Bronherrn, but continued his efforts. Despite the respect it gained him, Bronherrn knew his brother lacked something. He tried to pinpoint it as he studied Grimhelden’s nervous movements. He followed Grimhelden’s gaze as his brother returned more glances to Pherlis and Virayn.

The girls had come to sharpen their skills, not sit before the lustful hunger of his younger brother. It made Bronherrn laugh to see their oblivious faces.

Bronherrn would not have paid this foolishness any mind if all three of Prillani’s sisters had not come to watch the fight. He did not wish to allow his brother to make foolish moves because he allowed a group of young girls to distract him. He spun around playfully and toyed with Grimhelden knocking the weapon from his hand.

Grimhelden rolled for his sword with determination, but Bronherrn kicked it away. When Grimhelden rolled again, Bronherrn blocked him with his boot. In one last attempt to reclaim his footing, Grimhelden grabbed his dagger and slashed at Bronherrn’s leg. “Not so triumphant now.”

Druthleer made his way to the spectators. “Come on Bronherrn! You still have three more to take on.”

The girls stopped their conversation with a giggle and Bronherrn took the opportunity to knock Grimhelden down and placed his sword at his throat. “You would have a chance if you spent less time focusing on the ladies.”

Bronherrn reached out his hand to help his brother up, but Grimhelden stood on his own ignoring the gesture. He walked over to the river for a drink leaving Bronherrn to sigh. With their father gone, he felt it his duty to guide his brothers. Druthleer accepted this new order, but Grimhelden battled with it.

Onfala ran over to him as he cupped the cooling waters in his hands. Bronherrn stood silent for a moment, watching her ask him question after question. He began to grow concerned over her infatuation with Grimhelden, but Pherlis called his attention away as she neared him clearing her throat. “I have been working on all the techniques you said.”

“Good.” He walked farther away from the others and took his stance before Pherlis. The coils of her long golden brown hair were tied back, but enough strands broke free to dance around her face. Mingling with the determination on her features, she looked like a born warrior.

Bronherrn had enjoyed training the new crop of youngins. Pherlis had the same grace of her mother and utilized enough footwork to keep him moving. The exercise was welcome after the simplicity of trying to work with Grimhelden, but despite Pherlis’s well-executed blows and blocks, it was not the friendly spar that held his attention. His mind drifted to Prillani.

After barely a year of marriage, her womb had grown round with promise. Her sisters often stayed with them and she never complained, but the sight of her swollen ankles and stiff back concerned him even as he fought. Bronherrn had been patient on the battlefield, he found the strength to withstand being held in a dungeon, but the long months of waiting to see his wife into motherhood put him on edge.

He grew nervous about his family and spent each day training whoever was willing. From the moment he finished breaking his fast until the sun bid the day good bye, he was at it. Bronherrn felt helpless with thoughts of a new life to protect. He could do nothing until the child was born, and so he trained.

After he defeated Pherlis, Virayn took him on. The clank of metal on metal offered a rhythm that Bronherrn understood well. It lulled some of his wandering thoughts, but it did not quell every concern. Growing weary of the monotony, he caught her in a hold and found another victory.  

Bronherrn had tired of working with inexperienced youths. He called Druthleer to him and looked forward to this last fight. Each time he held his sword against his youngest brother, he found himself having to exert more effort. Unlike Grimhelden, Druthleer had skill that matched his own. He did not have to lighten his blows for Druthleer. The boy had shown expert skill and reminded Bronherrn of himself at his age. He found himself fighting with a paternal air and realized what their father must have felt when he passed his skills onto him.

The pressure of Druthleer’s sword pushed against his and Bronherrn did not worry about fatherhood, or his changing life. He found patience in sparring with his brother, an appreciation that made it difficult for him to eventually claim victory over Druthleer. He had hoped that today would be the day when his brother bested him.

Once Bronherrn stood the victor, his brothers left with Pherlis and Virayn, heading along the pass together. Without their childish ways to distract him any longer, he practiced maneuvers by himself. He thrust his sword and moved to find focus. He lunged forward and glimpsed Prillani from the corner of his eye. She smiled at him in the autumn air. It rushed over her blowing her hair over her face and he laughed as she struggled to move it out of her eyes.

She giggled at him and then stepped forward.

He lowered his sword. “We can never be too ready.”

She nodded moving closer.

He looked down at his sword.

Prillani stopped just before him. She pulled his weapon up and fingered the blade, sliding her touch over the steel to reach his hands. Loosening his grip, she bore the sword’s weight, and laid it aside. She rubbed his arms and kissed him. “You are not the only one who is restless.”

He tilted his head and rubbed her womb. The instant he rested his fingers on her, the baby kicked. The little spasms were a feeling he never tired of. Despite his lack of ability to connect much with his unborn child, he felt drawn to Prillani’s body. Her growing figure welcomed him because of all that it meant.

He wrapped his hand around hers and they headed back to the house. They reached the doorway and Prillani’s breath grew heavy. She lurched against the frame.

“What is it?” Bronherrn supported her weight.

“I do not know.” She gasped.

He carried her in and laid her down. Onfala followed her older sisters Galandra and Bernisha to sit with Prillani. They stayed to comfort her as Bronherrn went to fetch the midwife. She had come to live near them, honored to birth their first child.

He met her quickly and did not have to explain himself. She took one look at him, grabbed a bag, and followed. Her ability to rush along eased him slightly, but when he swung the door open, they found Prillani bleeding fast.

The midwife shouted out orders and Prillani’s sisters took on heavy tasks before Bronherrn could even think to respond. The scene reminded him of the blood he had witnessed in battle. The agony on his wife’s face matched that of warriors he had seen cut down. The comparison jolted his spirits.

He went to Prillani’s side and held her as she shrieked with pain. These cries were beyond those he had heard in all the bloodshed he had lived through. They were not the grunts and groans he had heard when passing the emergence of a new life back in his village in the mountains. He feared for both Prillani and the baby. Grabbing his sword, he ran outside and took his stance.

His mind became a wreck. He had not summoned Aethelwyn since before the wedding. His thoughts jumbled his senses, but there were not any other options. He took his dagger and cut deep into his hand to force himself to focus. Centering himself through the pain, Bronherrn grew calm. He breathed out in a meditative trance. His body grew hot under the excitement, but his heart slowed, and Aethelwyn appeared.

Working to hold steady, he tried to find something to say. He needed her to save his wife, his baby.

“You have no cause to search for explanations.” Aethelwyn said before he could speak. “I know what is plaguing you. Or shall I say your wife and son.”

“My son?”

“Yes.” Aethelwyn stepped onto the grass as if gliding from one world into another. “Your son.”

“Prillani…she is…”

“Bronherrn, my powers are fully matured.” She leaned in with a slight smile.

Her godly air soothed him. “Will you aid us? It has been a long time.”

Aethelwyn glowed before him, a sheet of brilliant skin with violet eyes that shone against the beauty of her dark hair. Something in her all-knowing features asked Bronherrn for more.

She was a proud creature and Bronherrn understood that she would need to be treated with a higher respect. He did his best to swallow the lump in his dry throat. It rubbed together like dry tree bark in a drought-plagued forest. “I…we need you. Oh holy one.”

This appeased her and she swept past him. Following behind her, Bronherrn entered the house and stood beside Onfala as her sisters stepped back with wide eyes. The streaks of tears on Onfala’s face alarmed Bronherrn. He bent down before her. “That is Aethelwyn. She has helped me before.”

“She can save her?” Onfala sniffled.

“Yes.” Bronherrn doubted his answer, until Prillani’s panting slowed. She kept her eyes fixed on Aethelwyn’s and her features smoothed as if entranced. Aethelwyn bent before her and moved her hands over Prillani’s womb and down her legs. She reached back up and stroked the birth canal.

Bronherrn watched with awe as his wife calmed and began to sigh. The entire atmosphere of the room changed. The chaos of the previous crisis lightened to a thrilling anticipation. Galandra and Bernisha scooted in closer to Bronherrn. He looked up at them with a reassuring smile.

“It is time.” Aethelwyn said. “Come Bronherrn.”

She moved Prillani into a squatting position and motioned for Bronherrn get behind his wife to hold under her arms for support. “Girls come by her side. She needs to feel your love.”

Galandra stepped around her sisters and knelt beside Prillani. “It is almost over.”

“I remember your birth.” Prillani moaned.

“What about mine?” Onfala drew closer.

“Of course.” Prillani sighed. “We all remember yours.”

“Not all of us,” Bronherrn said and Prillani laughed with her sisters.

Onfala drew near and sat beside Aethelwyn, watching her. Bernisha came to kneel on Prillani’s other side and Bronherrn found it wholly beautiful that his wife was surrounded by so much love as she prepared to greet their son.   

“Prillani?” Aethelwyn spoke calm and slow as if no one else was in the room. “I will have to lessen my energies to help you through the birth. Some of the pain will return, but it will aid you in pushing.”

Prillani nodded and took a deep breath. She began to groan low and rough. Her voice grew louder, striking Bronherrn’s senses. He gripped her tight ready to carry her to the end of the world if he had to. He feared that she would burst under the pressure by the sound of her cries, but just as the room began to echo with her pain, Aethelwyn smiled and new cries were heard.

Prillani’s voice had quieted in the wake of these small squeaking breaths of life.

Bronherrn held her close to him unable to take his eyes off the boy. Onfala handed Aethelwyn some blankets to wrap the baby with. Bronherrn suddenly became aware of the others in the room and noticed the joy meeting the new born from every face but that of the midwife. He locked eyes with her scrutinizing features, the thin drawn out lips. She backed away and left the house without saying a word.

Something in the way she slipped out troubled him, but he cradled Prillani in a firm embrace. She held their son to her breast and he began to suckle. Bronherrn kissed her head and she smiled up at him as he reached around to brush his fingertips over their son.

“Our little Brackliem is quite a fighter.” Prillani nuzzled against Bronherrn.

He laughed at the memory of his father. “You have already named him?”

“I did no such thing. He named himself. Just look at him.”

Tears clouded Bronherrn’s vision. He closed his eyes, proud to have a wife who honored their child with the fallen man’s namesake.

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