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Karn scratched his head with gloved fingers. Watching the fleeting light as it slowly disappeared behind the mountains in the distance. The day grew long as the two continued through Arvid forest.
Karn glanced at the trail up ahead. Light poured through the icy trees, making shadows dance across the glassy surface. The trail called to him, and he urged Albin forward.
Karn smiled faintly, the corners of his lips turning upward into a toothy grin. “You know, wasn’t so long ago that I told my da I’d never be a Chieftain. Crazy how things change.” Karn stated aloud. , Albin whinnied in reply, and Karn continued. “You know, I think Eon’s right. Elenora has changed me, but…for the better.” Karn winced as he remembered Eon’s parting words.
“You’re going soft brother. Married life has settled you too much, making you weak. Where’s the warrior I knew? You in such a hurry to get home to your woman!” Eon roared with laughter as he opened the cottage door ushering Karn into the cold morning air.
Karn’s thoughts roamed from Elenora to Eon to the raids. Karn and Eon had both served during the raids with both the courage and distinction that befitted Elohite warriors. In large part due to the Brehon war band, the raids had finally stopped, and had never encroached the borders of Bardai.
The Maekel Clan had not been successful in any major land takeover in the Bardai valley since before Karn was born, but it was not for the lack of trying. The Maekels had however, conquered several of the surrounding valleys during the Y’Itha raids, footholds that the Brehon had not been able to reclaim.
Fridtjof, the Maekels First Chieftain, had an insatiable appetite for power. It was obvious that he desired to conquer the entire lands of Arcadia for his clan. His possible motives for the continuing border wars were constant talk among the men in Bardai valley. The Y’Itha raids had at the very least, helped turn the Maekels attention from Bardai, but rumors of a rising threat to Bardai spread like wild fire through the valley. Karn was certain that it was just a matter of time before the Maekels attempted another raid on Bardai valley.
Karn imagined Eon, Marek, Braheil, and the seven sons of Edvar at war with the Maekels. Part of his soul longed to be charging into another battle, reclaiming the territories they had lost in the last few years. But, the thought no sooner crossed his mind than he remembered his new obligations to clan and wife. Eon had indeed teased him when he left, but Karn knew that it was only a ruse to remind him of what life was like before Elenora, and it had worked. Of course, Eon would never interfere with his married life. In fact, Eon had stood beside him at the hand fasting as witness and brother. He had even offered the first blessing to the happy couple.
“May you enjoy the splendors of the marriage bed tonight, and in so doing may the goddess bless you with many sons. And may they not all be hard-headed, stubborn slow-wits like their father!” Eon cleared his voice, continuing his speech, “Elenora, I hope you find Karn a gracious and patient lover, and always know that he will never be more than the second best lover in the clan, as I have always been known for my love making prowess.” Eon winked, sloshing his tankard of bitter root down the front of his tunic.
Laughter erupted from the crowd, and several clansmen howled with disapproval.
Karn would remember those words forever, as well as the immediate change in pallor of Elenora’s pale skin. It had taken on hues of crimson and scarlet which only intensified her radiance in her soft pink robes. She had been both horrified and amused with Eon’s blessing. Another smile traced Karn’s lips and his eyes danced.
Karn’s thoughts scrolled back to the day he secretly discovered Elenora hunting for wood along the edge of the outer ridge.
He could see Elenora bending down reaching for a piece of seasoned wood, and he could hear her sing.
“Lady Lorna stood so fair, waiting desperately for her lover. The love at home long had gone. Now Elanvanin couldn’t have her. Of Earth she found Caladain with honest heart his inner flame, noblest kind of earthly man, robed in strength and purity, from moment one and without a plan, she fell in love with him.”
Her song enchanted Karn weaving its way into his heart and mind until he found himself lost in her web longing to hold her. Elenora seemed the very picture of a goddess and Karn remembered thinking she must have been one of Lorna’s creatures, because no woman could have been so beautiful.
The sound of clanking limbs drew him back to the present. The air was bitter cold, and stung through his wrap. Karn stood in his stirrups, stretching his long legs, trying to entice the blood to flow down to his feet. While uncomfortable himself, he took comfort in knowing that his father and brother Orin were seeing to Elenora’s every need while he was gone.
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