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Bronherrn rushed to his wife burying her in his arms. The bitter rounds of winter’s wrath closed in on them fast and he found himself happy to return to the confines of home. He did not baulk even when Prillani’s sisters came to visit. He missed them and wished to make them feel welcome now that they were no longer welcome to return to their land.
He felt responsible for all of it. The grief Grimhelden carried back with him pressed Bronherrn to begin the habit of leaving his wife and son to check on his brother once a day or more. He feared for Grimhelden who had suffered much and grew angry at his existence. “No need to bother yourself with me.” Grimhelden slumped on his stool weeks after they returned.
“And hello to you as well.” Bronherrn laughed, doing his best to offer his brother patience and understanding.
Grimhelden said it enough times that Bronherrn ignored his brooding ways. He needs time to accept all that has happened. I harbored the same breed of guilt not so long ago myself.
Instead of their usual banter, someone tapped on the door before letting herself in. Bronherrn cocked his head at Virayn. She stepped before them with a basket of food. She placed it on the table and stood gazing down on Grimhelden.
“No need to look after me.” He straightened himself and began to tenderize the meat before him.
“That is just as well because I came for your company.”
He banged harder on the cutlet and Bronherrn smiled at Virayn. “Glad to have you.” He raised his eyebrows for a moment.
She nodded at him then directed her focus back to Grimhelden. “I trust that you ate the bread I brought you the other day.”
Bronherrn took up his father’s stool and watched his brother with a curious smirk. So I am not the only one. A slight tinge of jealousy struck him. It was his duty to repair the damage made by his actions, but Grimhelden continued to clobber the meat before him.
“Just keep out of my way,” he said.
“Cen I be of service?” she asked
Bronherrn sat back holding in a chuckle.
Grimhelden scowled at Virayn. “If I needed help I would have asked my brother, or found my mother to aid me.”
“Why do you hate me?” She furrowed her brow grasping the lilac fabric of her dress.
Bronherrn turned away.
“I do not hate you.”
“Then why shun me? We used to be good friends.”
The scuffing of anxious feet emphasized their silence and Grimhelden said nothing.
Bronherrn cleared his throat. “You are a dear friend Virayn.” He scowled at his brother. “He is merely working and wishes to be alone with his thoughts. May I walk you out?”
She pouted at the idea but accepted. Once they reached the bitter cold, Bronherrn blinked tears away. The chill bit into his eyes. “Phiryan, please do not be offended by my brother’s behavior.”
“I am not offended, only hurt. I cannot lose him too. My sister is dead.”
Bronherrn closed his eyes for a moment. The loss of all who had perished under his command followed him every day. “And you resemble her so much. I fear it pains my brother to look at you.”
She gasped covering her mouth. “You think he sees her in me?”
“It is likely. And he is still recovering from his injuries.”
“But I wish to be near him. He reminds me of the times we had with Pherlis.” Her head drooped and her shoulders shook.
Bronherrn gripped her hand. “Go home. Warm yourself with your mother. Spring will offer more.”
It occurred to him that Shanal may be mourning deeply. “How does your mother fare?”
Pherlis sighed. “As best she can.”
“Thank you Bronherrn. I have always looked up to you. Watch over him. His is more fragile that most warriors.”
“I am well aware. I shall.” He watched her stalk off in the winter haze before returning to speak with his brother. When he swung the door open, he became even gladder that his mother was visiting Prillani with Druthleer.
Grimhelden was leaning his head on the table sobbing.
Unsure of what to do, Bronherrn asked, “You need me to leave as well?”
“I do not know.” Grimhelden lifted his head and wiped the tears away from his bloodshot eyes.
“She is not Pherlis.”
“That is what troubles me.”
“How so?” Bronherrn leaned on the table.
“It is difficult to explain.”
“You cannot go on like this forever. When was the last time you slept? Or ate for that matter? I know you have not touched the food she brought you. Do not deny it. You are wearing down to bone.”
“I still live.”
“Yes, in body. I need you here in spirit as well.”
“Nobody needs me.”
Bronherrn pulled himself closer to his brother. He gripped Grimhelden’s arm and leaned in. “I will not you lose you. We are brothers. You offer me the insight that most soldiers lack. Never forget that.”
“I am but a cook.”
“You are the best cook, dammit! I prefer your food to that of our mother.” He banged on the table with a smirk.
Grimhelden laugh. It eased Bronherrn into a bellow and together they shared a moment of relief. When he left his brother to return home he ran into his mother and Druthleer on the way.
“How is he?” she asked.
“Thank you for looking in on him. Make sure you come back to share a meal with all of us.”
“I shall.” Bronherrn grinned, remembering how he had laughed with Grimhelden.
Druthleer smiled back and waved as they passed on to battle the whipping winds that blew their clothes about.
Bronherrn hugged his furs close to his body and approached his house. All the romance of his return had worn off. He entered wishing to confide in his wife and to hold his son, but Prillani and her sisters were so engrossed in conversation that he barely got a hello.
He worked to entertain himself with the fire and a good ale.
The days passed easier when he told stories to his son and sharpened his sword, but by midwinter, he grew restless. “We should take a trip to The Otherworld, just you and me. The boy is almost weaned and we have enough people to care for him.”
“The timing is off,” Prillani said.
“It is necessary,” he growled in her ear.
She looked to her sisters who giggled at them. Bronherrn did not care if anyone gawked at them.
“As long as you and I have time together.” She sighed.
Unable to contain himself he asked, “Mother, Prillani and I are in need of a journey.”
“I will gladly care for Brackliem.” She picked her grandson up and kissed his round squishy cheeks.