Daughter of the Windswept Hills
Part Three – I Will Be Waiting
The band of Aedring made their way down towards the pasture with the quick, stealthy grace of a pack of wolves on the hunt. Thirty five men were part of it, and eight women, Fianna among them, all kitted out for battle. Most were jerkins made of hides, some reinforced with plates of iron, while a few wore iron rimmed hide helmets, or shields constructed in the same manner. They carried a fell array of weapons; spears and axes, heavy swords and hefty maces. Out at the head of the band, Hraega, Fianna’s grandfather, wore an old shirt of bronze scales, an heirloom of the clan, one passed down from generation to generation, repaired and refitted so often that little of the original remained, as well as a dark, fur lined cloak that hung from his shoulders. He had swapped his blacksmith’s hammer for a formidable two handed hammer, one that could strike fear as easily as it crushed skulls.
“In what numbers are we dealing with?” Hraega inquired of Fianna as they walked along the path towards the pasture.
“I saw around sixty, grandfather,” Fianna responded, “Yet there may have been more that I could not see.”
“Let us hope the youth tending to the goats have a mind to get us a full headcount,” Hraega said, striding off ahead.
A young man caught up with Fianna, standing half a head taller than any other of the Aedring. He had a raw boned, rangy feel to him, as if he could, if the circumstances provided, bulk out substantially. He had piercing pale eyes, more grey than blue and, rare among the Aedring, dark blond hair. A shield was slung across his back, set with an iron boss in the centre, and he carried a hand axe.
Neither spoke for some time as they followed after Hraega, yet some form of tension became apparent in Fianna’s frame at the arrival of the young man.
It was Fianna who broke the uneasy silence finally, unable to bear it any more.
“Aifgar, in light of the developments which have taken place, and the outcomes which will almost certainly result, it would seem that the most prudent course of action would be for me to release you from your promise of betrothal to me.”
“It will not happen, Fianna,” Aifgar responded stalwartly. “I pledged on my honour to be true to you, and I will not break that pledge.”
“You know the fate of those that fail to complete the rites of initiation. I shall be sent into exile for five years. That is a long time to ask anyone to wait.”
“I would wait for five times as long as that for you,” Aifgar stated loyally.
Fianna fell silent again for a while, struggling to find the words that she needed. “And I for you,” she said finally. “It does not change my fate though.”
“No, it does not, but I did not expect any less of you. I am proud of you, of what you did for the clan. I will be waiting for you when you return.”
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