Mirth was behind this! Who else was behind this? Who had made the deals now? I was too confused to put anything together anymore. Why would he ask something like this anyway?
“I am very disappointed in you right now, but because Rig has come to me with his request I must honor it. As I’ve come to believe based on these good people’s explanations, you have misled Dalek with your words. Yet you accuse others of misunderstanding you and chisel that it was his decision!”
Fainting sounded so much better idea now – play a little dead, perhaps they pity me and let me go. And that’s how self deceit takes its wings.
“I did not wish to deceive him in any way,” I started again with what I told them so many times now. “I only wished him to understand that if his attentions were based on feelings he harbored for a mere image of me when I was only a child, then he might be making a gravely mistake and he’d better think this through. That’s why I asked him if it wasn’t better if we’d learn to know each other before the engagement was even under consideration!”
The moaning around me indicated that’s where the dog lied and why everybody were heavy as rock on keeping the groom and bride apart as long as they possibly can before the marriage.
“I now realize!” I raised my voice to hush them, “I now realize I have made a grave mistake and thus created more fuss than it’s worth. But I respect him too much to let him make such a mistake!”
Another blow of disappointed moaning filled the room and I felt like a cornered puppy. Just as I was about to bring out my second reasoning I felt a wave of cool air flow over my neck.
“You sound like I’m a brainless straw pile incapable of thinking on my own about this BEFORE I came to your brother for your hand!” Dalek barreled over the room, making me jump on my spot.
When on earth had he arrived? Well, he didn’t sound quite like he was regretting his decision or anything and I now understood, why it seemed like I was doing all the talking while he kept his mouth shut and let me take the blame.
“May I speak with her alone?” he asked, still panting as if he’d run here. They left fast, giving us some privacy, before he started yelling. “I’m not as dimwitted as you believe me to be, woman! I use my brain quite often! I ended the engagement because you asked me to – not because I hadn’t thought it through! I only consent to play your little game, because I was too amused at that moment!”
I was speechless – this whole time he did it, because he was amused? So that’s why Magnus was so well informed all the time – obviously this diverted cock was boasting with his next move! And me, little fool, was so intertwined in my own world that let it by without noticing.
“I did not ask you to end the engagement!” I argued back the moment I got my voice back, letting the amusement thing go as right now my brain just wasn’t coping with it well. “I asked you to wait!”
“I did exactly that!”
“Apparently not – you called it all off! That can hardly be called waiting! It’s more like… like…”
“You wanted more time to learn to know me! I gave you that by ending this so you wouldn’t feel pressured! What more do you want?”
“Oh thank you so much! “After making it quite clear you weren’t the man to wait?” I snarled. “You used me! You learned all what you wanted about me and then just decided you didn’t like it! That’s why you did it! Delusion goes fast when truth is reveled, especially if you use the bride only to amuse your tiny little ass! You liked the girl who I was – I can’t give you that anymore and unless you wished to learn it during our marriage I think it was pretty good to bring the issue up now, when you still had the chance to leave! No matter how it was done.”
“That has NEVER been the issue!!” he roared. “I hated you when you were kid! God, you whined on everything and made those puppy eyes at me – hadn’t I made the promise to my grandmother I take care of you, I wouldn’t even be here today!” He gasped for air to gather his posture for a moment while I sat on the bench, eyes huge in surprise.
I didn’t believe he hated me. He didn’t sound malevolent. Angry perhaps and desperately tired. But that I was forced in a marriage neither of us was prepared for because of his big mouth and willful thinking on keeping a promise was a totally different matter.
“I still don’t like you!” he said quickly, “You stick in my head…”but shook his head then, like it wasn’t at all what he meant and whispered that he only wanted to give me space.
“Can’t believe I’m doing this…” I growled, “I didn’t want space! I wished you were beside me, but only through the truth! Not for illusions!”
“And what do you think I saw lying next to me on the hays? A five year old? I told you! I did not want a child – I came here for my bride, a woman! And as far as I’m concerned, I found one very stubborn and badly mannered woman, who’s uprising has severe shortage. Why you seem the best of all the rest, I have no idea, but you are mine and Odin be damned, but I like it! So what if you need more time to make up your mind! I have time to wait.”
“How about that your bad choice of words caused a lot of trouble and I hate you for hurting me like that! Besides, I fear it’s too late for your good words…” I whispered, hearing Ole’s spacing behind the door. The people had made their decision and in their eyes I was guilty playing with men, a teaser, who only seeks pleasure in men’s eyes.
“I’m confronting the council tonight.”
“What – for what my father said?” he immediately took fire. “He is a fool!”
“That fool wants me dead! He has planned marrying you off for long time! Then you showed up saying without any warning that you are taking the only girl in the village who has reputation of a shrew! Then, when he has already understood the prospects of getting blacksmith as his in-law you tell him you call it off! Right! Like anyone would believe YOU were the one behind your plan! He sees me as the culprit and his experience is there only to support his theories. I insulted him by refusing his son’s hand!”
“But you didn’t…”
“Really?” I rose. “Didn’t I? I made you doubt in your own deeds!”
He seemed confused. “Did you?”
“Yes! Haven’t you paid any attention? Hadn’t I opened my mouth, we’d be getting married tomorrow…”
I hadn’t noticed when I closed in to his outreach, but suddenly I found myself way nigher than I had expected and cold shot ran through me.
“I didn’t know you had a reputation of a shrew.” He murmured mellifluously, totally confusing me with that adorable gruff voice.
“Well,” I tried to keep my attention on the matter and not to let myself be seduced by the node on his throat, “what would you expect with eight rejected proposals?”
“One very determined lady with one very good reason.” He let out a low husky laugh.
“Yeah,” I stalled and tried to pull away, but he didn’t even flinch, “you also forgot a slut, cause that’s what people see in women who don’t stay with one man.”
He immediately released me, snorting disappointedly. “You really know how to ruin the mood!”
“Yup, I so do!” I barreled back and preened my up climbing sleeves back down, ready to go outside and continue my road to up the hill.
“Good!” he grinned and captured me again, this time for a kiss.
“Before I take you to confront the council tonight, I wish to hear your decision on the marriage.” Ole asked when he took his place next to me as my escort. We had him waiting quite a while, before I just snuggled myself out of his arms and got out in the blazing air.
I totally forgot it! Well, we weren’t really discussing that particular part of our conversation, like the exact question.
“I have none.” I replied grimly and started walking to face my faith.
Ole walked slightly behind me for a while, before softly stopping me with placing his hand on my shoulder.
“Look, child…” he started slowly when we came to a halt, “Remember I told you not to let Dalek repeat my mistake?”
“Yes.” I nodded.
“It appears I told it to the wrong person…”
I didn’t understand. It was quite simple suggestion and I had done what he said and stopped Dalek’s what I then thought to be madness in time before any greater harm could come of it.
“I should have phrased it so YOU wouldn’t repeat my mistake.” He said slowly, staring at my widening eyes. “Apparently this old fool was too hazy in his words.”
This was getting too laughable. I felt like a fool and to think I was about to excommunicated for listening people I trusted. Never ever, I promised, will I do that again – only my own reasons were to matter now. And Dalek’s if I got out of this one alive.
I sniffed strongly digging my teeth in my lower lip as chewing it would have any effect to my well being. It didn’t. My heart was still bounding and my fingers twitching in fists.
I was full of power now, I felt, now that I knew I had no reason to fear what would come. I had been stupid to listen, I might as well take the punishment for that, but sun would freeze over if I had any reason to feel guilty of the raised situation. I was nothing but a pond between their games of chess. I wondered if I learned the game, might I learn to be less naïve and have less trust in them. I guessed I wouldn’t – you always trust the ones you like while they have no illusions about you.
A stray hair was carried on my face by the wind. I tried to remove it with my hand when suddenly realizing I didn’t have my circlet on anymore. Well, I guess that meant I couldn’t hide behind being a maiden anymore but had to act as a woman. Slightly irritating thought as so far I thought I had been acting like a grown up without even thinking what I might do was childish in any fashion.
“I’ll try to read more out your words next time, old man.” I promised cheerlesly. I couldn’t believe how freely they gave me advice – one worse than the other and then called it the free will.
Was it really a free will if you are provided only part of the information you require and then just blame you for not understanding? It is clear they can’t tell me everything in advance, only knols have that power, but this was just superb that I was stuck with such wize people, who’se only joy was to make others miserable with their knowledge. Better keep it to themselves I’d say.
But it was not mine to say. Like it was not mine to decide who I married or how I spent my life. If I wasn’t useful for the elders, I might as well be removed.
Back to this decision and I noted him we’d better go and not let others wait for us. He agreed and we went.
I was sure I won’t stay here for long. Perhaps that was indeed good and my happiness was written up on different stones on some other banks. I felt comforted by this though and held on to it. To start new and leave.
The sun was still high over the fields at that time. I let my eyes fly over those fields as sparrows did and said good bye. The rippled light made the trees seem like dancing and the earth move though it felt strong under the toes. I didn’t wear shoes, hadn’t had time to put them on. Instead I could feel the warmth the soil had captured in itself and sense the peckles under the heel.
I breathed in the scent of the daisies, tracing my hand through their white heads mixed with pink creepy thistles and bindweed that made everything in it’s power to pend the other straws closer to the ground, like making sure they’d show respect to the sun and moon. Some tits were jumping around here and there collecting flyes for their offspring. I had never seen them catch bees though and thus they flew around as if nothing else mattered beside gathering that one drop of sweet dust that could be turned in honey later.
“How old were you when you got married, Ole?” I asked the man walking by me in silence.
He smiled winsomly. “Oh it was so long ago…” he sighed. “I believe it was when I reached the age of sixteen. My mother had chosen me my bride.”
I nodded, holding my eyes on the bees that flew from one daisy to another, a captivating site.
“Anke was… gosh, I can’t really remember – she was so young and frightful when I saw her there, coming towards me with her shiny hair lashing out gold. Pretty site she was…” he sough, hopping his look away too. “It was quite the same looking day – Sun way up in the sky and sky blue as far as the eye could reach. Even trees seemed greener then.”
He paused, smiling warmly thinking back to her wonderful wife. I observed him from aside, how his eyes filled with shiny essence and the silvery hair wavered around his bronxy skin covered numerous little wrinkles. If you didn’t look at him very close you couldn’t really tell how many grooves made up his face. He had really liked his wife and had had a happy life.
“I see you two have passed your little killing obsession?” he grinned suddenly catching me off guard.
I let out one very girly like giggle I was so sure to leave behind me but obviously failed.
“Oh… that… well… I think he has.”
“What,” he drawled, “and you haven’t?”
“No! I meant he has figured out how to not…” I thought a little, wondering what it was I just said no to and gasped. “I didn’t mean I’d want to kill him! I meant… Ow! You’ve done it again!” I quarreled. “I have no idea anymore what I’m saying!”
“I haven’t done anything!” he smiled innocently. “It is you, who think it’s so complicated!”
I did not!
“See –“ he explained, pulling my left arm and started drawing figures on it with the straw he was holding, “… all I asked was if you two have figured out the solution to your unwilling killing passion.” He chuckled and let my hand go, wrapping his behind his back and whistling away while he continued his walk.
“He has!” I said firmly, still staring at the palm, mind filled with strokes I understood as well as I saw the lines there. “A-and I found one solution, too.” I added fast, running after him.
“Oh? What is it?”
“I go hunting, too.”
He blinked, like remembering something. “You still have that bola dad made for you few years back, don’t you!”
I nodded, white as snow.
“Young lady, you’re not supposed to have it anymore! Girls grow out of those toys and become decent housewives and…”
“Learn how to kill for their family.” I shrugged not getting his point. This was my favorite bola since the one I lost when I was a toddler. Easy way to capture rabbits and willow grouse in winter or in summer when gathering the fruits and mushrooms.
He cast his eyes towards heaven followed by his two hands. “Your father really has to learn how to teach his daughters! To teach you hunting! What was he thinking?!”
“Um,” I interrupted, reaching out, but he bounced away, still rampling about how it was no place for a woman to be hunting wild life. “Old man!” I caught his attention again. “It was Magnus, who taught me…”
He came to an abrupt halt. “Magnus?”
“And what was he thinking when he taught you this trait?” he demanded, still playing angry, but his eyes were twitching already, showing signs of calm.
“That it was his way to watch after his younger sister?” I offered fast. “It really took only few times – I picked up the rest later. And then uncle said that a good woman must carry her seven children and her husband on her right hand while…”
“…while tending animals with left.”
“Yes.” How did he know?
“Damned!” he murmured softly, sly smile winkling on his dry lips. “It all trails back to me again…” he shook his head in misbelieve and continued his walk, calling me to follow. “And I thought no one was listening when I talked nonsense.”
Now that was a revelation, I thought grimly – the elders were just as stupid as we were, only their words were taken as crumbles of wisdoms the rest of us so longed for. Well, some of it might be true after all if they just kept repeating what the elders of their childhood spoke.
We reached the Great Hall and before we entered he stopped me to clean his clothing for a moment and place the cloak over his right shoulder as it was custom. For an old men he sure was vain, jacket covered with furbelows and self claimed golden items he had sewed along the waste line. I wondered if this was purely for the show or was there someone in the crowd he was truly interested to see the glory he could offer. Especially that his vanity had taken a whole new level in the past few weeks.
“Alright, lass,” he sighed sadly, “listen up now – you enter from here and take your place on the front of the elder’s council. You’ll have a trestle placed for you there. First we talk, then you talk, you understand? That first we – THEN you. No back talking if you’re not addressed to or it’ll play you a bad trick.”
“Understand.” I nodded.
“Wish us luck, Odin,” he took a deep breath and opened the doors to let us in the humid room filled with six old men and a chair. I bowed to the men and greeted them before being allowed to take my seat. Ole sat on the left end of the row.
I was surprised to find the room so empty. Last night, when Mirth first mentioned his father’s anger I thought he had the whole village rallied up here to witness this. That would have been bad – it sometimes took less than a drop to make the whole ant nest hum.
We stared at each other for some time in silence. It was so quiet I could hear the chicken in the near by farm chuckling and clucking around as nothing in the world was as important as the feed. The cows called their owners to milk them and the sheep were just as loud as the rest of the animals. I didn’t feel like sitting in the Great Hall at that moment, more like being placed in the middle of a barn with cattle close by and they were there too, all wrinkled and dressed to their finest, walking staffs placed right next to them for quicker use. But no, that was not the case here and I was still in the Great Hall with their half circle less than few feet away.
Frode, the eldest of the men, was sitting in the middle. He was the speaker for the council and would start and end the assembly. He was also the biggest drunker during the feasts, but, well, that hardly lead his judgment, which fell to the right soil, often proving themselves later to be justiful. Even if it meant death to someone you loved.
I watched him rise and clear his throat. It took him several attempts to steady his posture before saying on soft deep voice: “Laurien, you are accused of avoiding your duties as a woman and refusing to pullulate.”
God I hated when they used expressions from the old ages! Was that how he called copulation? His word sounded more like puppulating. Like suggesting I didn’t want to get puppies?
I sank my teeth deep in my lower lip not to laugh myself limp, managing to keep the urge deep inside me, resulting only a small tear to appear on my left cheek.
Nevertheless, there was nothing funny for what I had been brought here. But to puppulate – what a word!
“Are you high?” A sudden roar came from his lips as he peered at me. I was so shocked that could do nothing more than stare at them and blush furiously.
“Then what the heck is mater with you, girl? What’s so funny about the accusations you’re opposed to!?”
“Nothing!” I yelped, but the manner it was done, gave them no confidence. “You just said…” I tried to explain, but faded, realizing fast enough I might be punished by merely joking over his expression. They hardly wanted to hear my low humor on their behalf. “Oh, never mind.” I passed it aside.
He glowered at me, waiting my explanation, but I wasn’t ready to give him any, so he continued reading out my rights before the council, what they planned to deliberate on and the possible outcomes of the whole thing.