change, of that there is little doubt. Many years later Rune would
understand that even the kindest and most gentle of people can be changed by a
string of chance circumstances, slowly and over an extended period of
time. Their honor can still remain inside their most personal
understanding of themselves, even after that part of them that the world sees
has changed beyond recognition of what they once were. The most painful
part of such change is that most often it happens without them even noticing
it. It is as if they continue to see themselves the way they were when
they were younger and not yet grown harder so that they might deal more easily
with life's hardships and responsibilities. Therefore of course, they are
then unable to understand why people close to them no longer react with
understanding, nor treat them the way they remember being treated when they were
nearer to their innocence. The pressure of life itself will often make a
kind person not callous, but willing to justify their actions as the result of
events, circumstance and chance happenings of Fate. Like aging, the
hardening of a personality happens so slowly that a person may hold within
themselves a set of values that they then betray by their actions every day of
their lives, due to the growing cynicism they have chosen to adopt so that they
might survive emotionally without acknowledging their own weakness.
one is unaffected by change and few are strong enough to take a definite course
of action to rectify such hurt as it may bring about to those that they love who
are daily about them. For all change and experience of life occurs with
the destruction of the innocence and the ambitions of youth itself. It is
like the love a man has for a woman that blinds him to her aging, until one day
she shatters his fantasy by some unlikely act or word and he sees her for the
first time as what she has become. Desperately trying to prove it is not
so becomes like a nightmare to him and reality itself begins to lose it's
focus. Is it any wonder that he reacts with anger and a feeling of
betrayal? His Angel of Perfection is no more than any other woman and his
need to believe she is still what she has always been to him destroys his
ability to accept the change. Before he can help himself he is blaming his
surprised wife for what she has taken from him. Even as he does so he is
forced by instinct to gain her aid and understanding, which he hopes may help
him to accept the loss that she has forced upon him. He turns to his only
true partner in life knowing that she has done the worse thing anyone, friend or
stranger, could ever do to him. Yet where else can he turn? She has
destroyed his image of her and he suffers no less a sense of loss and despair
than he would have experienced had she been murdered without reason. For
the deeper the love he holds for her, the greater his image of her, the more
devastated will he be by the reality that is suddenly forced upon him and the
emotional loss of his reason for living. Life is always so, survival of
it's desperate moments is to understand the fear that one may not be able to
stop them returning again.
so is a person's understanding of what made them what they have become with the
passage of time and how they are responsible for it continuing. From
outside it is easy to see that the erosion of self continues only because they
are unable to forgive others for what they themselves are now doing daily.
Therefore it is not surprising that the best, the kindest and the most
charitable of people are the more certain to be dealt emotional pain and
heartache, for they find that they can not take upon themselves the
responsibility for their part in changing the situation they so wished never to
change. Whether their actions have become in fact just a reaction to a
life of simple satisfaction, which brings out their strengths, or a life of
pressure and tension which drives them into the reaction of self-survival by any
means, the ultimate collapse of the situation is always the result of denying
that a solution does in fact exist. There is no horror to compare with the
fear of being totally helpless in a situation which brings only more pain, be it
physical or emotional.
loss of memory was by such a comparison, a blessing. He knew without proof
that there must be many things in his past which, had he been able to avoid
them, he would have avoided, or in a child's understanding he would have made
such things not happen. So was he blessed to regain himself in the
pastoral setting of Havor's Holding in the forests of Natan. Living with
people who were content because they knew how to be nothing else and who lived
every day without any need to accept responsibility or change. He was with
people who had lived their whole lives without the helplessness that most
educated and experienced people suffer through many times before they are fully
the Buyer had left the Holding Mother was unable to add anything to the simple
statement that one of the slaves Rune had tried to help had been her husband,
before the children burst into the house a few moments afterwards. There
had been no time for him to formulate questions which might have allowed her to
share her grief and fears with him and so the matter was dropped while she got
on with her normal chores. The evening meal occupied her then and the rest
of the family were put to storing away the trade goods they had obtained from
Vanaten. The way she busied herself gave away nothing of what she must
have been struggling with in her mind, as she added fresh logs to the fire and
began banging pots and pans about. Watching her from behind as she worked
on the preparation table he had built beneath one of the small windows, Rune
realized again how helpless the woman felt outside of her role as housewife and
mother. Her shoulders moved, echoing the industry of her hands as she
chopped at the onions she was preparing, yet the rest of her body stood as if
anchored to the floor. Her simple woolen dress covered her heavy frame,
which rippled as her strenuous arm movements sent rippling waves through the fat
of her back and buttocks. He realized for the first time that during the
years he had been with the family all vestiges of youth had left her and the
late afternoon sunlight which played on her face as she worked was a spotlight
for the thickening of the skin on her face and neck, emphasizing the layer of
fat which had made indelible lines on her neck where it folded. There was
a spot on her neck, which she had opened at some time by her absent-minded
scratching and now it was a small red-brown cake standing up from the downy hair
of her skin. The protective instinct for women and children that is
natural in men rose within him, even as he accepted that Mother would never be
anything other than a simple peasant, no matter how much he would like to save
her from it.
evening passed with all of them doing the odd jobs of a household that has had a
profitable day and then, before Mother and he had a chance to continue their
conversation, she announced that it was time for bed and she and the children
were climbing the ladder to their sleeping quarters in the loft.
tried for a long time to get to sleep that night, but his brain raced with
thoughts that were alive of themselves and no amount of justifying would put
them to rest. In the dark warmth of the house he lay with his arms above
his head contemplating the alternative outcomes the day's events could have
brought down upon them, most of which promised him a restless night. What
would have happened if Mother had not cured his anger at the last moment with
her scream? What might have taken place if the Buyer had not then been
there to rescue him from the spite and retribution of the insulted
Overseer? What would have happened to the family if he had killed the
brute, or if one of the guards had squeezed off a bolt into his heart? But
in all truth the greatest reason for his being unable to relax that night was
his wondering at what Casper Havor was doing and thinking at that very
moment. As Rune lay in the warmth and comfort of Casper Havor's home and
family, the true owner of this house was confined by chains in a prison wagon
suffering the night's chill. What did Casper Havor think of Rune taking
over his home, his wife and his family? Did Mother's husband lay somewhere
tonight planning revenge on him for usurping a husband's rightful place?
The more Rune thought about it all, the more questions he found that he
developed to ponder upon.
the quiet haven he had created about himself in this place was beginning to
crumble before the attacks of a newly conspicuous outside world and Rune knew
that never again would he be able to pretend that what was happening out there
in the real world was something that need not concern him overmuch. Those
sorry men in chains today had been his ex-comrades, surely he owed them
something? His shame began to build as he realized he had not once thought
of doing anything more than giving them a piece of bread, yet had the Gods
chosen otherwise he might well have been one of them tonight. He knew that
somewhere down in his tortured mind his true self was twisting in contempt for
the self-centered coward that had taken his place. How much he hated
himself then, how he hurt for being who he had chosen to be. In the end
the confusion in him drove Rune from his bed and out into the quiet night.
moon hung like a silver ball above their clearing in a cloudless sky that night,
seeming like a great baleful eye looking down at Rune to reprimand him. He
paced for a long time in front of the house, then sat in the porch chair for a
while before he finally went looking for Mother's wine jug to drown his
confusion. There was a chill in the air he had not noticed before when he
returned to the chair and poured himself a beaker of the wine. No more
than a swallow had passed his lips when Mother came out onto the porch wrapped
in a blanket. In her arms she carried a bundle of cloth, which she came
over and laid down in front of Rune, almost as if it were a child.
can see what today's happenings have done to you Rune and I've listened half the
night to your trying to come to terms with it." She took the
jug and poured herself a beaker of the wine, "Time's come for
decisions hasn't it?"
the God's know what I'll have to do to understand what's happening Mother and
what I must do as my part of it all." Rune said despondently.
had to come, Rune." She said sadly.
in the bundle?" He asked, glad to change the subject.
are the things you had with you when we found you. I was frightened
someone might come by and see them, so's I hid them in the hiding hole under the
said quietly, untying the bundle.
overcame him, along with a feeling that somehow she had treated him badly in
hiding these things from him for all these years, to say nothing of risking them
when they had renewed the house. To avoid any more insecurity or confusion
he turned to helping her with the bundle. It was a strange feeling when
the first piece of his past came into his hands. It was a blue tunic,
edged with silver braid and retaining a few silver buttons. He turned it
over in his hands, hoping that it would unlock some memories, enjoying the feel
of the fine cloth and examining the tears and marks on it as if they might be
clues to his forgotten past. In the end he saw that it was no more than a
tunic he had once owned and he tore off the buttons and dropped them into his
pouch, then he pushed it back into her hands.
what I thought when I first opened it." She said.
"Seventeen gold crowns, twenty three silver pence and more copper
than two month's work stacking charcoal kilns would ever bring you Rune."
would I get such a sum?" He asked in amazement, feeling the
warm weight of the wealth that lay in his hands.
off I thought you'd robbed a Bishop," Mother said quite
seriously, "But when I looked you over you looked like it must
be yours, I think you were some high person once, an aristocrat even. . ."
voice trailed off in contemplation, then she handed him a small bundle wrapped
in a white linen kerchief. He searched the cotton square for initials but
found nothing. When he opened the piece of cloth he could do nothing but
stare in disbelief at the small collection of expensive jewelry it
contained. The workmanship of it all was wonderful to examine and it's
beauty was beyond description for two peasants who worked every day of their
lives to survive as charcoal burners. The first piece he took out was a
heavy golden ring with what looked like a stag or a beast's head engraved on
it's face, the fine lines of which had been filled with silver, then he lifted
out a heavy golden chain that pulled up a similarly engraved medallion almost as
large as Mother's palm, only this time the animal's head was surrounded by a
circle of red gemstones. There was also a bracelet of heavy gold, a single
band decorated with blue and white stones and a pin with a device that looked
like the unicorn's head once again but with a single sparkling water-colored
stone mounted where the beast's eye should have been. It caught the light
of the lamp which hung above them, sending flashing rays of red, amber and blue
lights from it's faceted face. Before he could recover from this last
surprise, Mother handed him a heavy leather belt, with two matched silver chased
daggers hung on it and a huge silver buckle that once again displayed the
unicorn motif. He unsheathed the knives and was examining them closely,
intrigued by the workmanship, when Mother interrupted his thoughts.
know I should have shown you these things many years ago."
She was near to tears he could tell, ". . .but I was frightened
they might bring your memory back and then you would leave us. . . and. .
. I'm sorry Rune, I'm so sorry. . ."
touched her hand and smiled to comfort her. He felt that he should be
scolding her for keeping these keys to his past from him, but he also knew they
would have made no real difference to the lost soul he had been for so many
years, except perhaps to add even more confusion. If he had had them
before he thought, he might have ventured forth too soon into the Gods knew what
trouble. So in a way he had cause to be grateful to her, although he knew
that his excuse had not occurred to her, nor had Mother considered his needs at
all in any part of her reasoning.
would have meant nothing to me Mother, they unlock no memories. Perhaps
you should have shown them to me earlier but it is of no matter now."
thought came to him and he had put it into words before he considered what it's
effect might be.
did you not steal them Mother? Why? The God's know you
are in need of what this treasure could bring."
was yours." She said, sounding puzzled, "It
wasn't mine and if anyone knew about it they would have slit my throat for just
one piece of the silver, wouldn't they?"
sorry Mother. . ." She never allowed him to finish.
are I don't understand how your mind works Rune. I was just scared that
you might leave. I have never been without a man about me,
father, brothers or husband, until Casper went off to fight in that War. I
had good reason to be frightened of what would become of me and the children if
we had no man to look out for us. It was because you were with us that we
survived these years you know." She hesitated, then took a
breath and said, "Now I know that it's time for you to be your
own man. . . well, it wouldn't be right if I hid what was yours from you
at such a time, would it?"
stopped talking and picked up the tunic and went into the house without waiting
for an answer, leaving the door open so he could see her stir up the embers and
put the blue cloth onto them. It smoldered for a while before bursting
into flames. The light lit up the whole room for a moment and the familiar
things he had lived with, not least the bodies of the sleeping children up in
the loft, were illuminated in a way that made him realize tonight was the start
of a new time. Events were at last forcing upon him the need to rise from
his stupor and start considering the very real future that had suddenly
presented itself to him, unbidden though it was.
returned to close the door before she went back to her bed and he was again
alone on the porch. That night brought about a complete change in him, one
which he could not turn away from, nor one that he would ever be able to
ignore. He spent the next few hours realizing how easy it had been to
spend the past five years avoiding his responsibilities in this quiet
clearing. The understanding that soon he would have to leave made
everything about the only home he could remember seem the more precious to his
happiness. He walked around those places in his mind that had been so dear
to him in that time, knowing that he must soon leave them to seek out the
destiny the Gods had predetermined for him.
came with a quietness of rose gold clouds and the promise of a clear hot Spring
day, fresh and clean like only Nature can explain. He returned to the
house in time to join the family for a wonderful breakfast, in which Mother used
many of the food items and spices they had obtained from the Buyer the day
before. The children were of course excited and made far more noise than
usual, but Mother remained quiet and withdrawn and neither said nor implied by
her composure what had happened between them while the children had slept.
She had however, shown him how to open the hiding hole in the hearth, under
which stone his treasures once again rested.
would be hard in later life to look back upon that morning
without a sudden feeling of apprehension overcoming him, for during that meal
the events which were about to happen to them during that day would have seemed
absolutely impossible. Yet Fate has a habit of hitting you hardest when
you least expect it. How clear that scene would always be to him.
The scent of cloves that spiced the oatmeal and the tart smell of boiled apples
that would always return to him whenever he cared to close his eyes and remember
it in the years that were to come. There was also the smell of new soap in
the air and freshly brewed coffee, ground that very morning.
soon became obvious that Mother had not mentioned to the children that one of
the slaves they had seen in chains the day before had been their father.
How sorry he was for that poor woman right then, alone with all of her problems,
not through choice but because she knew not how to share such things, nor had
she the education to be able to analyze or explain them even to herself.
Mother's face moved through silent contractions as she mentally dealt with
problems she was unable to speak of and in the way of simple folk she tried to
think of other things, in the hope that somehow the pain would go away before
she had to face it again.
broke the silence before Rune could, by asking, "What are we
doing today Mother?"
we always do the day after the buyer comes." She
replied, "We shall have a day of ease and each of us may do as
we wish, but tomorrow it will be back to work as usual, so don't wear yourselves
the boys whooped with joy and with hurried explanations and even more hurried
movements, they were out of the house to go fishing within minutes. Mother
flashed the first half-hearted smile he had seen from her that morning, as her
sons rushed to enjoy themselves in the independent way that only young boys can.
in turn, answered her look by mumbling something about "going for a
long walk in the woods", while she announced that she would take
Maer and go up the river to collect some wild flowers. However when she
asked Kirene if she wanted to get the picnic ready, the eldest of her children
surprised her by saying that she would rather go along on the walk with
him. It was the first time Rune had ever heard Kirene speak out against,
or rather not just quietly agree with, whatever her mother suggested, ordered or
you like." Said Mother and within a few minutes she had taken
Maer and left for the fields of wild flowers.
after Mother left the house Kirene and Rune set out for their walk and within an
hour they were far from the clearing and following game trails through virgin
forest. It was a beautiful day, clear, sunny and quiet as only country
days can be. Canopies of branches above their heads made the forest a
place of wonderment, pierced with brilliant shafts of sunlight in which small
flies and dust motes swirled in almost magical dance. The blanket of last
year's fallen leaves and forest moss, through which the emerald shafts of new
Spring grass were again growing, gave the whole scene a quietness that was both
beautiful and mystical.
had been out of the house for just over an hour, when he looked at Kirene as
they made their way through that silent wonderland and he suddenly saw her as a
woman for the first time in his life. It would seem ridiculous later but
it came to him as a shock, as if he had returned after several years absence to
find her full grown. He found himself watching her every movement in
wonder that bordered on astonishment. When had it happened? Why had
he never noticed before the way her hips swayed as she walked, how her firm
young legs moved beneath the homespun dress and her young breasts, that for some
reason he had never really noticed before, now commanded his attention as he
watched them sway heavily with each step she took? Her long hair was a
healthy mane that seemed to balance her youthful walk and it shone in the shafts
of sunlight like spun gold, perfectly framing the face of a woman who only hours
before he had seen only as a child.
the inevitable happened was an accident. She stopped to avoid a half
hidden log, doing so suddenly enough for him to all but walk straight into her
as she turned to warn him. To keep his balance and not knock her over, he
put his hands on her, not just anywhere but cupping those newly observed
breasts. It was done and yet he had not meant to do it. If she had
said something or reacted with shock, then perhaps it would have gone no
further, but she smiled and did not move, that is until her hands rose with the
purpose of covering his own. She held his hands on her, pressing them
against her hardening flesh, so slightly that had he not been so nervous he
might not have even noticed that she was doing it. Then she slowly lifted
her face and looked directly into his eyes and the sister he had known these
many years had gone for ever. Her hands moved slowly away from his and he
removed them from her, feeling more awkward than he had ever felt before.
She never took her eyes from his face. How can one describe such a
look? Her pupils were like polished jet set in green liquid spheres that
floated in pure white. They shone like the eyes of a Saint, innocence and
need pouring forth from them at the same time. Her lips were full, parted
slightly to show pearl white teeth as she began unlacing her dress with careful
noticed for the first time how beautiful her slim hands were as she slipped the
thongs free. It was as if she had practiced what she was now doing many
times in her mind. Before he knew it the homespun garment slipped from her
body and she stood before him completely naked. He would hear poets later
who would claim that a man can be blinded by the purity of innocence offered
willingly for the ultimate sacrifice of self, yet he was not blinded in any way
that wonderful morning, instead his eyes feasted on her beauty. The
tightness of youth complimented the golden-cream smoothness of her skin and the
warmth of life that trembled through her as she offered herself to him, was all
but breath taking. She was beauty in perfection caught up in the body of a
girl, a body that was as graceful as a young cat, lithe and without
excess. Her breasts were half-spheres that clung to her with a firmness
that only suggested softness, with rose-pink buds centered on them that had
grown to bursting point with the passion of the moment. She was obviously
also caught up in the fantasy of the hour like a tightly coiled spring, almost
shivering with her new feelings of need and the audacity of her actions in
inviting him to join her in this moment of discovering her womanhood for the
very first time.
Unashamed and yet shy at the same moment in space and time, she moved the step to bring her against his body and he lowered his head to kiss her. The embrace was tightly held and her scent rose into his nostrils to overwhelm his senses, even as her soft lips touched his own. During that eternity he felt her tongue press against his lips, opening them and forcing itself into his mouth, where it searched out the flavors that only his own tongue had known before. Without command his hands stroked up and down her back, feeling the tightness increase, until she stepped back and away from him, his loss almost bringing a cry from his throat.
eyes, which had been closed while they kissed, opened and she looked directly
into his soul itself as she said, "I love you Rune. I
always have loved you and I always will."
around them it seemed as if the forest itself was hushed, waiting to observe the
conclusion to this unfolding play. Sunlight speared through the branches
above them crossing Kirene's young body in stripes of sparking gold and
contrasting with the warmth of the flesh caught in nature's earth colored
shadow. Somewhere a bird picked that moment to launch into a peal-like
chain of clear notes, a fanfare to the beauty he beheld before him and desired
even above life itself at that moment. Then, as if caught in a dream,
Kirene lowered herself onto her discarded dress which lay like a sheet on the
forest floor. It was like a dance that time had spread over longer than
such movements should ever take. Her hair folded with perfection as it
spilled over her shoulders, to be brushed back with a double handed movement
allowing him to worship the sensuousness of the action and giving her the
pleasure of savoring his desperate need for her. Her legs folded with
grace beneath her as she lowered herself to the ground, taking the weight on her
hands in a way that allowed her full breasts to sway in perfect symmetry with
her movements. Then she lay backwards until her shoulders were cushioned
by the ground and her hands again wrapped her hair out of the way, as if hiding
one square inch of her skin from him might destroy the magic. Her legs
spread before her towards him and the curve of her body was enhanced as she
moved with a body-embracing moan of longing. Her right knee lifted to lay
on her left, deepening the shadow between her legs and leading his eyes to
wonder at the small triangle of down-like hair beneath her tight young
belly. Still not saying a word, Rune removed his tunic and knelt before
her as a peasant will kneel when worshiping a shrine. With a natural
longing, exhibited without shyness or shame of any kind, her arms came up to
pull him down on top of her and her body opened to him and the girl became a
woman in that moment.
understood for the first time the perfection the Gods have planned into the
joining of two souls in the act of love-making. There was as much taking,
if not more, than giving, a search for pure pleasure that sheared away all
pretense from a person. A surrender to satisfaction and enjoyment that was
multiplied as one felt it reflected in the other, satisfaction mirrored and
thereby increased, if not created for that moment in time. Each of them
drawing from an unending stream of pure pleasure, selfish in it's enjoyment, yet
needing to be shared to even exist. Feelings that were perfectly right,
whole and without equal, as every part of the body and mind came alive at once
to complete their understanding and total gentle conquest of each other.
Like ripples of Heaven itself, love played it's tune upon them and seconds
became hours and minutes days, with the end coming too soon, with a desperation
for it to continue for ever being lost beneath the pounding waves of fulfillment
they could not at last deny.
Kirene lay cupped in his arms in a silent smiling half sleep, leaving him to
wonder on the mixture of guilt and satisfaction that was running through his
was a long time before they got up and began the walk back home. It was a
journey that was punctuated by moments of happiness which made them skip, tumble
and laugh with each other and also with moments when they walked in what seemed
like very solemn thought, contemplating the implications of what they had done
and how the future now had responsibilities it had not had for them before.
remembered little of that long walk back save the beauty of the forest, a
feeling that never again would he be alone and rehearsing over and over again
how he would explain to Mother what had transpired that morning. It seemed
that through everything else a part of him went on hoping that the affair might
be able to remain an eternal secret.
* * * * * *
End of Tranquility
before nightfall they came out into their clearing and their world fell
apart. Havor's Holding was a scene of destruction. Still smoking
timbers of the house jutted up from collapsed walls and everywhere bodies were
sprawled where they had died. The silence was deafening and for some time
the two young lovers just stood and stared at the disaster that had happened
while they had made love only a few miles away. The shock which had frozen
them ended abruptly when Kirene screamed and made to run towards the
house. Rune only just managed to restrain her and it took several minutes
to calm her down enough to understand that perhaps the danger was not yet
past. He persuaded the sobbing girl to take cover under some bushes and
convinced her that if anything happened she was to run into the forest and
hide. Immediately. Without waiting for him. Then Rune started
towards the house.
steps that made up that walk were like the beat of a funeral drum, each one
increasing his observation of the disaster that even yet his mind tried to
convince him could not have happened. Their home no longer burnt, although
a light smoke still rose from the charred timbers and here and there a sporadic
breeze fanned glowing red embers to life. The scene was one of
unbelievable savagery and as he walked it was simple to piece together exactly
what had happened. Vanaten's slaves had managed to escape from him and,
obviously led by Casper Havor, they had returned to the farm. The buyer
had followed them with his men and, Rune gathered from the many horse signs on
the ground, with a detachment of troopers from some nearby garrison. For
his zeal in attempting to reclaim his property the buyer had been rewarded with
death. He lay near the house in almost comic crookedness holding with both
his hands the crossbow bolt that had pierced his chest and taken his life.
His bloodless face still held a look of shock that he could be killed.
some reason, the signs showed, the slaves had been in the house when their
pursuers had arrived and had then run from the house towards the river.
The result of that decision proved it had been one of desperation that had gone
wrong for them, for their path was littered with bodies that had been brought
down by charging cavalry and well aimed crossbows. None of them had had
any chance of escape of course, for they had not had the time to remove their
shackles and slowed by those chains they must have presented easy targets to the
soldiers charging after them. The last body he came to was heaped as if he
had fallen to his knees in prayer, the broken lance entering him beneath the
left shoulder blade and protruding enough to hold him off the ground in a
reached the house and turned the corner to go round the barn when the sight that
greeted his eyes made him retch. The survivors had been herded into a
bunch and then systematically shot down. In the sprawling heap he saw
Mother's body and those of her two sons. Kirdi had three bolts protruding
from his chest, his pathetic little knife still clenched in his fist.
Casper Havor had obviously tried to shield his family and for his bravery had
one bolt firmly planted between his shoulder blades and the shaft of another
protruded from the back of his skull. With a heaving stomach Rune checked
every body in that terrible pile, only to scream with agony when he found little
Maer crushed beneath her mother's body, showing no signs of assault but dead
nevertheless, probably suffocated by her own mother's body. The troopers
had done their job with a dedication to slaughter. No-one had survived.
a daze Rune carried the bodies of Mother, her husband and each of the children
back to the house and then he took up the spade they had used to cover the kilns
and he dug five shallow graves. Casper Havor weighed little more than
Kirdi and Maer was so light in his arms he was able to step down into the grave
with her. It was their faces which made the greatest impression on Rune's
senses, they all looked as if they were asleep, not dead, never again to talk to
him but just asleep. There were some flowers blooming in the corner of the
yard that Mother had planted when the boys and he were digging the well.
Rune picked some and laid them in the grave with little Maer, before he covered
the bodies with earth. He thought she would have liked that because his
little Maer had always liked flowers.
the burying was done, Rune had picked his way through the rubble to retrieve his
belongings from beneath the hearth stone, swearing as the retained heat of the
large stone blistered his fingers as he tore it loose. Then he had
returned to gather up Kirene and urging her on, he set off without delay to put
as much distance between them and that nightmare as they could, before others
came to investigate. They did not talk as they walked, for there was
nothing either of them could say right then that would have taken away the pain
In the same afternoon, only a few miles apart, two lovers had experienced the joy of complete happiness, while a short distance away their family had been destroyed like animals before a lust for violence no one would ever be able to justify or understand. So is often the paradox of humanity. There was no comfort in such logic that night though, as Kirene and Rune stumbled wet eyed away from the only home and family they had ever known. In the clearing behind them there was no sound. The animals had been stolen or had run off into the forest and even the birds were not singing in that place now. The fruit trees around the house were in blossom, the new grass was like a blanket of emerald green abundance and the river flowed in silent splendor through that picture of sorrow as they left the place.
It seemed that if only someone could have painted a picture, just leaving out the smoldering ruins of the house that had been their home and take away the already stiffening bodies that lay around the ruins as evidence of the murder that had been committed there, it would be a picture of how every man and woman dreamed heaven itself would be.
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