Daughter of the Windswept Hills
Part Eleven – Daughter of the Aedring
The city burned. With the fall of the river gate, the Aedring flooded through the city, looting and pillaging as they went. The residents had fled, left unharmed by the Aedring hillsmen, but searched for any valuables they might have tried to carry off with them. Among those feeling had been the sheik, Mashraf, attempting to hide amongst them, disguised as a woman. Even so, the Aedring had found him and captured him, binding his limbs with thick cords. As the city fell, the Hashalites who remained, fighting in different parts of the city, offered their arms to the Aedring.
“They fought bravely,” Fianna told Hraega when they were brought before him. “They had no need to stay, nor were they involved in the raids on our lands, and yet they stayed. Their leader was a true man of honour.”
“Release them,” Hraega ordered. “Return to them their arms and harness and mounts. See to it they have their pay and food and let them go.”
The captain of the mercenaries, a tall Hashalite who appeared much alike to the man Fianna had fought on the wall, bowed to Hraega. “We will not forget this, great chief, and the men of Hashala always honour their debts.”
The sheik was another matter. He fell at Hraega’s feet with much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
“Silence, cur,” Hraega snapped at him. “You are no man, if you behave thus. Your crimes speak for themselves. There is only one fate for that.”
There and then they held him down and Hraega himself struck the sheik’s head from his body, the parts tossed away as common garbage.
Last of all Hraega turned to Fianna. “The city has been taken. The day has now come.”
“I know grandfather. I walk now into exile.”
“Do not do anything rash, my child,” Hraega told her, his words soft so only she could hear them. “This day has been especially heavy for you, but in five years you will return to us. You will be one of us again. Where now will you go to in your exile?”
“I have thought long of that,” Fianna replied, lifting her head high, “And I will not journey with one of the other clans. No, I shall walk among the lowlanders, and when I return, I shall bring their wealth back with me.”
“Never forget who you are,” Hraega told her, “A daughter of Aedring, born among the windswept hills.”
“I will not.”
Hraega produced a broadsword and shield, and a shirt of leather and mail. “You are a swordmaiden of the Aedring, battle-tested and honoured,” he said, presenting them to her. “Take these and use them well on your journeys.”
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