Blood of the Ultains: The Tales of Bronherrn Chapter 41

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“It has been long enough.” Prillani leaned against Bronherrn’s naked back and kissed his shoulders.

He had trained with his new warriors and remained conflicted as to whether or not he should lead them to the foot of the mountains by the Cassani River to see what had become of the Zuthan farmers. “I do not wish to wage war again.” He looked to his weapons sitting near their sleeping furs.

He and Prillani had finally obtained their own little house, while Galandra cared for their sisters in a simple structure beside their home. The great comforts tore at his heart. Leaving again without knowing his prospects made him long to stay.

“And I have no stomach for it either. But they are still my people, Bronherrn.” She gestured in the direction of her homeland.

Bronherrn stood firm. “Raeimo and Cerlias advised it. Yet, their counsel leads me to believe that I should not do what they ask.”

“An exploration is not battle. You may go and come back without a fight.”

“I fear that is not possible.” His instincts had been plaguing him for days. Something told him there would be bloodshed again.

“Even your mother is prepared to allow Druthleer to march under your charge,” Prillani walked around him. She slid her fingertips over his arms and down his hands meeting his eyes face-to-face. “My people need our guidance. I fear they have fallen on darker times.”

Bronherrn wrapped his arms around her. “Then I shall leave tomorrow, but tonight we will not speak of it.”

Glad to have a son who slept well, Bronherrn kissed Prillani with all of his strength. He draped a cloth around their child to give them some freedom and bid farewell to his wife with his touch, his body until the morning dawned too soon.

Bronherrn did not fret over loss of sleep. He had actions to carry out, men and women to lead. He gathered his troops with hopes of a safe return hidden behind all strategy. Before they departed the next day, he addressed the familiar faces. “We venture back to a land that was once ours. A land that is still ours by right.”

He nodded at his mother’s look of approval and noted Shanal and her daughters staring with trust. “We will return to reclaim it, but remember the Zuthans who worked with us. They wished for peace. They are still out there and they deserve our respect.”

Bronherrn gazed over his warriors and found Mourack and Grimhelden standing together. When he met the sight of Druthleer, armed to serve him, he smirked. “Now if they engage us in battle, we will give it to them!” With these words, he turned and led them out of the narrow field, past the houses, and through the market to reach the long winding path that would return them to the field they knew so well.

Bronherrn had no struggles bearing the responsibility of leading this time. He marched on wearing many plates of armor harnessed with his weapons. Over the years, he had earned his metal and donned it proudly.

Druthleer reached his side and matched his pace in silence. Bronherrn glanced at him from the corner of his eye but kept a steady pace. The quiet welcomed him and the voices of the others mingled behind in the autumn air. The paternal pride Bronherrn had developed for his youngest brother kept him from questioning if Druthleer had earned the right to walk with him at the head of the party. He knew no one would begrudge the liberty. Druthleer had earned his right following in Bronherrn’s footsteps.

The pass stretched ahead, overgrown and cramped. It had not been traveled in some time. New vegetation tangled the way and reached out over the walkway. Bronherrn had no intention of alarming his warriors. He slowed his steps and cut at the tall weeds. He contemplated the journey chopping at vines and bushes with each stroke of his arm.

The sky thickened with the dark hue of night and Bronherrn surveyed the open ledge. He sighed turning to eye the trusting faces of his warriors. “We can rest here for now. Beware of the drop off and keep yourself propped up with your back against the rocks.”

This is no different from any other journey, he thought. Bronherrn could not conquer the unrest that left him standing watch, as if he alone could protect every one of his people.

The warriors settled in and he looked out to the shadows shading the lands beyond. A steady hand clapped him on the shoulder. He jerked his head sideways to find Grimhelden staring ahead with his face set. “I may not be the best swordsman, but I can cook if needs be.”

Bronherrn nodded. “We would be honored to share in your gift.”

Grimhelden stuck his chest out. Bronherrn laughed to himself as he watched his brother gather up some of the wiry weeds and brambles he had cut down before calling the halt. He may have connected with Druthleer because they were very similar, but he often wished to be closer with Grimhelden. There remained a curious distance between them that he hoped to close.

Grimhelden looked up at him over the first spark of flame that caught and ate at the sticks lying in front of their boots. Bronherrn grunted his approval. No words fit. He had other warriors to tend to. Matters to address. He finally understood why his father had always remained so silent. He must have had many thoughts and ideas to grapple with.

I wonder if he were once as foolish to be as loose with his tongue as I have been in my earlier days. Bronherrn recalled his first memories of the man he had always looked up to, but the image was dim. The exact shape of his father’s features had grown blurred over time. Shaking his head, he determined to focus on the present and plan for what was to come.

He placed his feet between the line of fighters, stepping over them. He made sure to take his time so as not compromise anyone’s safety, or his own. His muscles were already tense and his body began to shake. He performed what felt like an awkward dance to reach the rear and meet with his mother and Shanal. “How are we holding up?” He crouched down holding his breath to keep the pain of the stretch from being known.

Shanal smiled and looked to his mother. She tucked a loose strand of hair back into one of her braids.

His mother cleared her throat. “They are tired, nervous. Everything we should expect. But on the whole, a fine set of fighters.”

Bronherrn did his best to focus on his mother’s observations, but he found himself unable to avoid the coy expression on Pherlis’s face as she drew closer to them. He thanked his mother and turned to her. “Grimhelden is by the fire if you would like to speak with him.”

Her pale cheeks crimsoned and she put her hand over her mouth to stifle a giggled. “Why should I care where he is?”

Bronherrn shrugged. “It seemed you might be hungry.”

“A cause like this does strengthen one’s appetite.” She peered over Bronherrn’s shoulder and he turned slightly to allow her enough room to pass while keeping himself steady on the path.

“Leave some for the rest,” he called after her.

She stopped to smile back at him. The spark in her eyes told him she would find more than food by the fire.

“It is never easy watching your family prepare for conflict.” His mother stepped away from the group as she spoke and Bronherrn followed backtracking from where they had come.

Bronherrn glanced at Shanal speaking with her youngest daughter. Beyond them, the haze of the dim embers drifted around Grimhelden and Pherlis. He stared back at his mother with a crooked grin. “I doubt she will challenge him that badly tonight. Although Prillani riled me up from the moment I met her.”

He longed for Prillani. The reminder of her absence and the possibility of never returning to her left him homesick. His mother reached out and patted the hilt of his sword. “We love and we fight until death.”

“I have never questioned heading out to meet my fate.” Despite the conviction in his words, he hesitated for a moment ─ pondering if that were entirely true. There were times when he had hated everything that came to fruition.

“But you miss your family. I know.” She stopped and gazed up at the few stars bright enough to shine through the clouded night. “Your father and I fought together. When I became a mother, we were separated by our duties, and though we will never battle beside each other again, I look forward to using my sword once more. It makes me feel close to him.”

Bronherrn had never heard her speak this way before. He put his arm around her. “This is a journey to make amends. My hope is that the only swordplay we shall require is that of friendly sparring.”

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