“B’other?” young Magnar asked innocently, pressing his small, chubby hand against Belinda’s tummy.
“Or sister,” she giggled, placing her hand gently over his.
It had been three years ago now, but she would never forget how excited Havardir was when their first child was born. He rushed to buy armor and forge swords the lad wouldn’t be able to wield for years yet. Her husband couldn't wait until little Magnar was old enough to go hunting and fishing and fighting with him. Belinda was also happy about their son, but she wished that she could have a little girl, too. One she could teach how to cook and garden. One who could stay around the house with her, helping to mend clothes, heal the Mundbyrdians after harsh battles, and craft handy things to give away or sell in the marketplace.
“Belinda, my darlin’,” Havardir’s cheery voice bellowed as he burst into the room. He scooped up his three-year-old son and sat upon the bed next to his wife, “I’ve got somethin’ for my new lad.”
“Or lassie,” Belinda smiled. She wasn’t giving up.
Havardir chuckled and handed a small trinket to young Magnar who was seated on his lap.
“Give this to your brother,” he whispered.
“B’other!” Magnar grinned wide as he poked the little box at his mother’s stomach.
Belinda giggled and opened it.
“Ooooh!” Magnar gasped.
Belinda drew out the colorful little glass rectangles and held them up to the light. The red one depicted several lizards. The blue one held a constellation of stars. The yellow one revealed a sun shining over water, and the green one showed a picture of a plant sprouting. Belinda smiled and placed them back into the box.
“These are wonderful, darling Havardir,” she said warmly, “I am sure SHE will love them.”
“HE surely will!” Havardir retorted playfully, arising from the bed and flying Magnar in circles through the air.
“Father! Father! Mine!” the lad giggled.
“I remember when I brought yours home, too, my son,” he said, settling back down and fishing a small box out of the chest where he kept the things he’d give to Magnar when he got older, “Dragon!” he said, holding the red one up to the light.
“D’agon!” Magnar repeated fiercely.
“Brave knight!” Havardir roared, passing the little purple rectangle to his child.
“B’ave knight!” Magnar thrust it up into the air.
“This one…” Havardir squinted at the orange one, “A pot of stew brewing above a campfire.”
“...Ooooh,” Magnar cooed, not knowing how to repeat after his father.
“You’ll go on many adventures, lad,” Havardir nodded.
“A’ventures,” Magnar said, running his finger along the little glass shape.
“And this one,” Havardir beamed, “Brother.”
“B’OTHER!” Magnar pointed at the picture of two men walking side-by-side. Then, he leapt down from his father’s arms and scampered back over to the bed. “B’other!“ he repeated, hoisting himself back up and placing his head against his mother’s belly.
Belinda only smiled and hugged the lad. Havardir came over and embraced them both.
“I love you, my boisterous boys,” she sighed, “…and whatever you are, I love you too,” she whispered to the new life forming within her.
I Met Him At The River...
Blue eyes. Chiseled chin. Golden hair. Creamy skin. Six feet and five inches tall, with a voice like thunder. A vicious warrior and a graceful gentleman both perfectly embodied in one handsome, miraculous being. Strength unmatched. Beauty divine. His name was Magnar and he was mine.
We met one fine day at the river. A weary traveler seeking a bath, he stopped midway noticing that the pool was already occupied. He tried not to peek at me, but he couldn’t resist. I saw him hiding behind the tree, so I decided to give him a show. I sang louder as I gently rubbed my hands along my umber shoulders and arms, then playfully thrashed about and spun around. I hummed as I washed my face and poked my toes out of the water to wash my feet. I wet my silky black hair, rung it out, wet it again, and whipped it around. Then, I vanished beneath the blue.
I could feel his eyes staring, anxiously anticipating my resurface. He probably thought me to be an illusion of some sort, I mused to myself. After a moment or two, his curiosity got the best of him. He emerged from his hiding spot behind the willow and cautiously approached the river. He stood there speechless, then came even closer and knelt down. He sat there for a time, then reached his hand into the river.
“Whatever are you doing, sir?” My firm voice called behind him.
“I thought I saw-- a beautiful young maiden-- in the river--” He stuttered in confusion, still staring unflinchingly at the water, “She went under so abruptly, perhaps she has been eaten or drowned-- or was she, perchance, a mermaid--?”
Finally realizing he was no longer alone, the stalwart arose, spun on his heels, and drew his sword quickly, its point arriving precisely at my throat. With my lips still pursed, I lifted my chin an inch and looked up into his sharp eyes. Without moving his steady arm, he slowly turned his head toward the river and back at me with a blink.
“You... The maiden... But, how?” He retracted his sword from my neck, stabbed it into the ground, and knelt on one knee before me. The top of his helmet brushed against my silky white gown, and his gaze landed at my bare ebony feet. “I am ever so sorry. I apologize for startling you, milady.”
“You startled me not, but it is I who have startled you.” I retorted.
Surprised at my answer, he lifted his head and one eyebrow.
“Now,” I resumed, “do you actually intend to bathe here, or have you come all this way only to spy upon a damsel disrobed?”
He stood to his feet and stared at me in disbelief. He seemed to be awestruck, amused, and annoyed by me all at once.
Shaking his head with a scoff, he removed his helmet. I gulped and held my breath, struggling to maintain my impudence as he shook out his blonde tress. I sized him down as he unbuckled his sheath, dropping his breastplate, shin guards, and shoes. He smirked at me as he began to remove his garments, revealing his hefty chest and sinewy arms. Turning toward the river, he dropped the final piece, exposing his buttocks. With a final glance over the shoulder, he plunged into the water. When he arose, I was nowhere to be seen.
I ran like the wind through the forest giggling and blushing. My heart couldn’t contain the emotions that filled up in me. I entertained myself imagining what he could have been thinking, Half of me desired to go back and see him, but the other half wanted to leave him with my strong and mysterious side to ponder upon. I knew that if it was meant, we would surely meet again. Time would only tell.
I Am A Disgrace
I am a disgrace.
A disgrace to the Mundbyrdians,
A disgrace to my father,
A disgrace to my entire family.
I haven't a sliver of my brother's strength, nor a fraction of my father's wit. I am bright, you may say, but not in the likeness of my father. I, myself, possess useless knowledge, while my father, on the other hand, is cunning in the ways of war, crafty with weaponry, and skillful in strategy.
I am unworthy to be called a Mundbyrdian.
I am undeserving to be called Havardir's son.
I am unfit even to be considered a man; for, I am merely a lad as ever I was and ever I shall be in the sight of my father and brother, so long as I am ill-suited for armor, unwilling to fight, affrighted of war, and a despiser of bloodshed. Nay, not a lover of peace, for, if I were, my father says I would be man enough to fight for it.
Nevertheless, I do fight for it. Not using the manner of fighting that my father and brother partake in. No. But I wage a different war. A pitiful one where words are my weapons and my armor is of The Spirit.
My father sees me silly for refusing to pick up a sword. For, alas, he says I must combat in that way when necessary. I know such is true, but my boundaries of necessity differ from that of his and my brother's.
Despite all, I will never be like them. Never. It is surely my fate, for even my father has said he has given up hope. They all think me a lost cause. My brother tells me there is a chance that I may come around, but even he shall soon face the fact that nothing can be done to change me.
Burkk the Jerk
In Wynsumheord, this story is told,
About a man both strong and bold.
His magnificent muscles were grizzly as a bear’s.
But, where his brawn abounded, his brains were scarce.
From the village of Hangra, he traveled to us...
On the day he arrived, he stirred up quite a fuss.
“Brother!” Magnar shouted as he ran into the room, “You’ll never believe who’s come to town.”
“The Misfits of Taungoun?” I asked with much interest, “It’s been a while since we’ve seen their traveling show.”
“No, Syndri,” he laughed, “It’s a person we know.”
“A person?” I pondered, “Family?”
Magnar nodded as his smile broadened. My eyebrows furrowed as I tried my hardest to figure out who it was and why Magnar was smiling and chuckling so.
“Have you given up?” he grinned impatiently as I inhaled and parted my lips, “It’s Burkk!” Magnar blurted before I could speak.
“Our cousin Burkk?” I grimaced as I remembered the last time he visited.
“Yes, yes,” Magnar laughs, “Good old Burkk the Jerk.”
And, as he spoke, who chanced to barge through the door? Burkk himself. Magnar was muscular, but Burkk even more so. He was taller and thicker too. He wore a thick coat of fur and a Viking’s helmet wherever he went and whatever the weather (no matter how hard I try, I cannot recall him wearing any other garb). His hair was ruddy, wooly, and unkempt. He never bothered even trying to braid it, let alone comb it. His beard was thick, and his voice was deep.
“Hello, my cousins!” he bellowed, sending wafts of ale our way (for he always drank in the taverns).
Magnar ran over to greet him, but I stood still in my place. Burkk always seemed happy to see us, but I had no fond memories of him. Before I knew it, he was before me, grinning, he laughed and punched me in the stomach jovially (but roughly nevertheless)
“Syndri, my good man!” he growled as I winced, “Stronger than last time I suppose, but you must eat more. You’re too scrawny, lad. You need more meat on those bones.”
I sighed and rolled my eyes as soon as I recovered from the pain. By this time, Burkk and Magnar had found seats in the sitting room and were deep in conversation.
“So, what brings you to Dryhtenhaven, cousin?” Magnar asked him.
“I have not come for fun and games,” Burkk said loudly with his dirty feet up upon our table, “I have chased me an adversary from Hangra.”
“Shan’t we be privy about it?” Magnar murmured, “Perchance he be lying in wait outside for you?”
“There be no fear in my bones,” Burkk laughed, “Come what may, I shall smite the bastard!”
“Whoever might your enemy be?” Magnar asked, “Whence come he and why?”
“Nevermind all those details,” Burkk arose, “With your help, we shall kick this idiot’s--”
A loud crash outside startled us all and interrupted Burkk (quite welcome was the disruption, for Burkk minded not his manners or his language). Burkk ran outside and yelled loudly.
“Show yourself!!!” he roared.
“Shan’t we have a plan first?” I spoke as I followed Magnar outside after him.
“Nonsense!” Burkk screamed, “We shall fight to the death!”
I shook my head. How serious was this, really? I never took Burkk seriously. Suddenly, a mad clad similarly to Burkk leapt out from the brush and tackled him to the ground. They tussled and fought, grunting profanities and insults at each other as they pelted each other with their fists and pulled each other's clothes.
Magnar and I stood and watched, unsure of what exactly we were looking at. Finally, they pushed away from each other and flung to their feet. Both growling through gritted teeth, they drew their weapons and struck them against each other's. I would have surmised they both were drunken, for their weapons fell to the ground more than once, and the other waited for the opponent to collect it again before attacking again.
Shaking his head, Magnar finally decided to intervene.
"Halt at once!" Magnar screamed, drawing his sword and standing between them, "What be this matter for which you two fight?"
Both the men stopped and considered for a long while. In that moment, they each seemed to glean their brains to no avail.
"...We fight to fight!" Burkk roared as he lunged at his opponent once again but stumbled and fell to the ground faint with drunkenness.
The other man then rose up against Magnar, but my brother delivered a punch that sent him to the ground lying alongside our cousin. I stared in confusion at all of this.
"They'll wake after a while," Magnar smiled, patting me hard over the back and leading me towards the house, "Never spend too much time in the tavern."
This grand misadventure was one of his many.
Had he ever triumphs? I can’t recall any.
So, who was the ‘villain’ and who was the ‘hero’?
By The Shining Lord’s heaven, we never may know.
Feast of Strangers
The moon is high. Magnar and Syndri are tired, weary, and hungry. Since starting off early that morning on horseback from Dryhtenhaven, the brothers traveled up through Taungoun, and into the Sundorwick Forest with no rest.
“We’re ever so close now, Brother,” Magnar says confidently, “On the other side of this forest lies the Togyn River, which we shall cross to get to Nurvenheath where Princess Valonia of Syperragg is being held.”
Syndri exhales and nods as they continue onwards, then slows as the sound of a steady drum begins to sound. Just ahead of them lies a pallet of food strewn neatly about on tree stumps and logs in a clearing. Filled with hunger and curiosity, Magnar eagerly nudges his steed forward but Syndri approaches with caution. Magnar smells the good victuals, but Syndri spies the native forest tribe.
“Food is there, brother!” Magnar says, “I’m starved,”
“Careful, brother,” Syndri warns, “We shan’t intrude upon their little gathering. We wouldn’t want to disturb them or anger them.”
“Nonsense, Syndri. You know nothing about these forests,” Magnar says with confidence, “I’ve been here many times. This is where I met the beautiful maiden in the river.”
“And?” Syndri snorts, “That says nothing of the native peoples.”
“They are harmless, brother,” Magnar states, “I don’t believe I’ve ever once crossed one.”
Syndri sighs in slight annoyance but still follows after his brother who takes off with great speed on his horse over to the forest clearing.
“Brother!” Syndri quickly calls, “We should dismount from our horses…. You do remember the last time we traveled to a forest tribe, do you not?”
Magnar begins to retort but thinks better of it. He rides his steed up to a nearby tree, leaps down, and ties its reins around a low branch. Syndri dismounts his and does the same. Magnar with great excitement, and Syndri still yet with very much caution, make their way on foot into the clearing. But, before they can fully make it into the clearing and into the presence of the tribe, the two brothers are stopped by a little girl. She comes from in front of them and pushes their legs back to stop them from walking forward. Their eyes glance at each other, then down to see her smiling up at them.
“Hello. Are you two strangers?” she asks curiously yet with some sense of authority in her voice.
The brothers look back at each other and then at the girl again. She is no older than nine, and they have no idea of how they didn’t notice her sneaking upon them.
“I suppose,” Magnar says suspiciously with an eyebrow raised, “But likewise are you,”
“Of course I am a stranger to you, but there are many more of us over there in the forest,” the girl sneers, “I am no stranger to them, but YOU are.”
Magnar grows slightly agitated but is still amused by her. Syndri’s eyes dart back and forth from his brother to the girl.
“It’s alright to be a stranger.” she quickly adds, “Have you come for the feast of strangers?”
“FEAST of strangers?” Magnar roars, countenance changing from skeptical to delighted as he places a hand on his belly, “Oh, then in that case, well of course we’re strangers.”
“SHH! It’s the Feast of Strangers,” she whispers harshly, “You can come along, but-- SHHH! You must be quiet.”
“Wait…” Magnar ponders aloud, “Exactly why must we be quiet?”
”Hush!” the girl breathes indignantly, “You mustn’t talk or else they’ll turn you out.”
“Who will turn us out and what for?” Syndri asks gently but with much curiosity, “We mean no harm to your tribe, milady,”
“No harm at all,” Magnar booms, “We only wish to ask if there is any food for us.”
“There IS food…” the little girl murmurs, “And the only reason for opening your mouth should be to put it in.”
Syndri smirks and looks to his brother with a slight laugh.
“And what do you mean by that?” Magnar frowns, quite offended.
The girl smiles slyly and folds her arms, then turns away from the pair with a flip of her braided hair and steals away into the night. The two puzzled brothers follow her (or at least try). They hide behind the trees she hides behind, and skip along in her shadow until they have made it into the clearing. There, the steady beat of the drum they heard earlier can be heard louder and clearer. Lots of tribals are seated at the large feast, but none of them say a word.
“Come,” the girl whispers, beckoning them onwards with her hand.
The two cautiously step out from under the canopy of trees and into the moonlit clearing. Magnar and Syndri scan their surroundings. Some of the tribe members glance their way, but most of them continue minding their own business. None of them speak or even gasp. The little girl motions for them to have a seat and she sits beside Syndri. Syndri observes that most of the people look like Sundorwickians (much to his relief, they are not Firgenholt Woodsmen), but quite a few of them seem to be weary travelers just as they. Suddenly, the drum stops, causing the brothers to instinctively hold their breaths. Just at that moment, all around them, everyone’s heads fall forward in a swift motion. Magnar is startled, but Syndri grasps his arm, then clasps his own hands together and bows slightly, closing his eyes. Magnar lets out a little sound of relief but raises his eyebrow at the peculiarity of the sudden happening. Then, even he bows his head and closes his eyes. No prayer is uttered aloud, but it is assumed this act is a giving of thanks to The Shining Lord. Suddenly, exhales can be heard as the gathered group collectively raises their heads and begins to eat. Magnar grins cheerfully and begins to dig into the food placed before him when suddenly someone from across the log table picks it up and begins passing it around in a clockwise fashion. Syndri nudges Magnar, causing him to look to his left. There, A Sundorwickian sat passing a dish to him. Magnar took from the dish a small loaf of bread. Taking a bite, he followed the cues to hand the bowl down to Syndri. As the dishes and goblets were passed around, everyone got a taste of their contents. The food and drinks were delicious, but not a sound was heard, save chewing and muffled acknowledgement and approval of the scrumptious meal.
After sampling many of the foods, the forest people begin reciting tribal chants and pounding upon the tables. Syndri is caught off guard for a moment but eventually pats his palms gently against the table in a rhythmic pattern at the prompting of the little native girl’s elbow. Magnar, on the other hand, is amused by this sudden uproar of merriment and joins in (quite offbeat), bared teeth and curled lips reflecting his giddiness. His eyes scan the approving smiles of the tribals when he suddenly glances over and spots a beautiful young woman. His eyes grow big in surprise and he immediately elbows Syndri.
“Look! Brother look!” he whispers with excitement, “There she is!”
“There who is?” Syndri asks, eyes glancing about.
“It’s the girl!” Magnar whispers again.
“What girl?” Syndri repeats impatiently.
“The girl I met at the river!” Magnar mutters with an enormous grin.
Syndri peers in the direction of his brother’s gaze and his eyes rest upon Anselma who is looking around with a serious face as she slams her hands upon the table in a ritualistic manner. Her dress is simple and plain. She is wearing a thin, light green (almost white) short dress with short, tapered sleeves, embellished with minimalist patterns. Her thick, dark brown hair is done into many braids that fall loosely upon her shoulders. Her skin is tawny brown. Her rich caramel eyes dash at the brothers and land on Magnar, causing her to appear slightly unsettled. She deliberately looks away with much effort in attempts not to be recognized, though she clearly sees it’s too late for that. Her heart jumps, slightly disturbed at being noticed by the man she met a while back at the river. She is slightly embarrassed at her behavior. She didn’t expect to see him again. She really wanted to leave that lasting impression upon him and vanish, never to see him again. Partially, the fear was rooted in falling in love. She had half felt attached to him but refrained from trying to see him again. There were times he had returned to the river to find her, but she only spied on him from a hiding spot in the trees. She admired his handsome physique and powerful stature. His blue eyes, golden hair, and brave-- yet chivalrous and slightly awkward-- personality (or just the bit he showed her that once upon their first and only meeting yet) were all somehow alluring. But, besides gazing upon him from afar, and keeping his garment that she stole from him that mischievous morning, she guarded her heart and didn’t want to fall in love with anyone in fears that the dream she had when she was a young child would materialize into a true prophecy.
Meanwhile, Magnar stares from afar, hardly able to contain his overwhelming joy, but Syndri’s eyebrows ruffle then raise high upon his forehead.
“Her?!” he questions in confusion and slight disbelief.
“Yes! Her!” Magnar repeats.
Syndri looks her over, shocked that Magnar had described her as ‘the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen’. She is not wearing any powder or makeup. She is not wearing an elaborate dress. She is a plain, tribal woman with no hint of royalty in her appearance whatsoever. Syndri remembers Magnar’s previous infatuation with princesses, and his desire to rescue one to wed all the way back when they were but young lads. Then, as they grew older, he seemed to take a liking to the more prissy girls in the village with the fanciest dresses and hairstyles. And, as of late, he would be highly attracted to the heavily made-up women in the taverns in promiscuous gowns, the busty ones with blush, eye shadow, and deep crimson lipstick. Syndri can hardly believe his eyes, in fact, he looks around to see if maybe another stranger was there somewhere in that direction, but of course, you would never find a royal at some such event as The Feast Of Strangers on their own free will. He sits staring, involuntarily blinking. Magnar observes his brother’s countenance.
“What?” Magnar whispers accusingly.
“Hmm?” Syndri quickly answers innocently.
“What was that look?” Magnar asks.
“What look?” Syndri immediately responds, still not making eye contact with his brother.
“What?” Magnar murmurs, “What’s wrong with her?”
“Wrong?” Syndri blinks, “Nothing’s wrong,”
“…You…You think she’s ugly?” Magnar asks, slightly disappointed.
“No, no. Not at all,” Syndri sputters with a shake of his head, “She’s quite pretty, actually… it’s just, I didn’t expect you to fall for someone so–”
Suddenly, the drumming ends with one last heaving boom from the hands striking the table as all the Sundorwickians rise to their feet simultaneously. Magnar and Syndri do the same under the close direction of the little girl who seems to have adopted the two for the night. The tribals step back away from the table. Then, a few of the young men take the long table by each end, lift it, and carry it long ways away. At this action, the music from the band resumes abruptly, and the natives begin shuffling around until all girls are lined up opposite to all boys who are also filed in a line (sort of like a square dance). The brothers’ guardian is forced to leave their side for a moment, but she still keeps a watchful eye upon them from her position among the ladies’ side. Magnar glances over and sees that Anselma is still across from him to his left, but about seven people down. As the tribals continue rearranging themselves, he tries to make his way and line up with Anselma. Just as he is nearing her, she turns away and skips a couple of folks down. Magnar is smiling very big and bright. Anselma has a face that looks as if she’s seen a ghost, then her eyes scatter around and she tries to pretend she doesn’t see the eager Magnar trying to catch up to her. The two lines of people begin to draw into each other, bow (and curtsy) then back away again. The girls ruffle their dresses, the men smooth out their shirts. Two girls smile at Syndri and giggle, for they are lined up with him and they think him to be cute. Syndri has an awkward countenance but follows the lead of the others. Suddenly, people begin taking each other by the hands as partners and do a little spin. Syndri uncomfortably pairs up with one of the two girls as the other is taken by his neighbor. The one who is dancing with him giggles with glee and glares over at her sister with a teasing face. The sister scowls. Syndri’s eyes stare big in much discomfort.
Meanwhile, Magnar is right near Anselma, but she quickly grabs hold of a tribal man who stands beside him instead. He, on the other hand, is accosted by an older tribal woman who smiles at him feebly. Magnar smiles but cringes, looking off and still not taking his eyes off of Anselma. Suddenly, everyone abruptly separates from their partners, shifts around in line, backs up, steps forward, bows, curtsies, backs up, draws near again, then joins as partners once more. This time, Syndri ends up with the other sister who grins evilly at her counterpart who in turn pouts. Syndri inhales deeply and cranes his neck, looking up to the moon in an obvious state of awkwardness. Magnar on the other hand is about to be overtaken by another woman, but he quickly lunges for Anselma. Unfortunately for him, he stumbles and Anselma finds herself drifting off with another young man. As Magnar regains his footing, he is joined by a different young woman until the beat changes again and the couples separate back into their perspective sides. They back up, curtsy and bow to each other, then quickly dash off in all directions deep into the forest. Magnar starts after Anselma but Syndri quickly grasps his arm.
“Do remember what we came for, brother…” he sternly warns, “Only to pass through.”
“Only a moment more shan’t do any harm,” Magnar whines.
“Princess Valonia awaits us across the river,” Syndri insists, “Both her father and OUR father are counting upon us to deliver her from King Adjorran’s hand.”
Magnar shows great disappointment, but finally exhales and resists the urge to break away from Syndri’s grip.
“You’re right, brother,” he says with some sadness, glancing down at the ground, “Let us find our horses and go.”
As the brothers venture back, they find their steeds tied exactly where they had left them and, now with bellies full of strange but delicious wares, and minds full of odd but wondrous pondering, the duo sets off towards the moonlit river, beyond which lies the King of the North.
A Dungeon Visitor (script)
After returning Princess Valonia to her father, Daker of Syperragg, the brothers were each offered her hand in marriage. When they both refused, and Syndri made a scene, they were both sentenced to severe punishment. Now, Magnar and Syndri sit in a dungeon cell late at night, drearily awaiting their execution scheduled for noon the following day...
(annoyed) Why’d you have to go on and on with all that blatant babbling? Look at what you’ve gotten us into.
(yanks his wrists in an exaggerated upward motion
as he speaks, shackles pulling against the ball and
chain that anchors him, grunts) If it wasn’t for your
little …proposition… I would have kept my mouth shut.
(huffs) Brother, I honestly fail to comprehend why
YOU couldn’t simply take Princess Valonia’s hand, I
mean, evidently, you’ve got her smitten.
Why didn’t YOU take her? You aren’t actually betrothed. You saw a woman, most likely a sprite, in the forest once or twice.
(matter-of-factly) It was THRICE.
(rolls eyes, exhales) Well, thrice, but you never can tell if and when she’ll appear again.
(braggadocio) Brother, you know nothing about girls. This is love. True love. And True love is undeniable.
(scoffs) TRUE LOVE, eh? (clicks tongue, HA!) Hardly! You two only exchanged a few words, and you haven’t even learned each other’s names. I may not be an expert, but, for all we know, she could possibly not even have feelings for you in that manner.
(exhales, looks down, solemnly murmurs) I suppose you’re right. . . . . (brief silence, breathing, looks over at Syndri in shame) I- I’m sorry brother.
(sighs, looks over) I apologize as well. (laughs bashfully) I always seem to get carried away at the wrong moment, don’t I?
(chuckles) Indeed. That is why, though you claim to be much weaker than me, YOU are attached to a ball and chain, and I am not. (holds up shackled wrists, gesturing at the fact no ball and chain is attached.)
Syndri breathes out a laugh, smirks,
looks to barred window near the top of the chamber.
Brief awkward silence.
(breathes, sighs). . . . .so, brother,
I conclude these must be our final moments.
I suppose so.
How do you imagine they’ll end us? Guillotine? Scythe? Axe? (shudders, groans)
(gallantly) Well, however it shall be done, insist they execute me first.
Nonsense, brother! As you have said before, if it weren’t for my smart mouth, we wouldn’t b efacing this grave predicament at all.
No, no. Even so, I shall die first. After all, I am the one who swore upon my own life to protect you.
(confused) Hmm? I’m afraid I don’t follow.
(politely, explanatory) You see, if I am dead, it is impossible for me to protect you any longer.
(scrunches nose, raises eyebrow) What bizarre reasoning. . .
I simply could not stand helplessly gazing on as you die. After breaking my vow, I just wouldn’t be able to live with myself.
(smirks cynically) Of course you wouldn’t. (shakes head) Because you would die next.
Suddenly, the sound of clinking chains and sliding bars resound through the prison.
A dark, cloaked figure holding a lantern in one hand and a large scythe in the other glides into the room.
As the brothers watch on silently, curiously,
the cloaked figure unlocks their cell’s gate.
Eerily, it beckons on to them, not uttering a word.
(gulps, worried) I’m sorry, sir… (stutters) y-you must be terribly mistaken, sir. We are to be killed tomorrow just before noon.
The cloaked figure steps into the cell,
Magnar steps back.
Syndri budges not.
(deep, manly, scruffy, exaggerated, bellowing)
Come with me, Syndri. (eerie, intimidating) We will do something… different… for you…
(quickly steps forward, panics) No! Not him! Please, I beg of thee! Take me instead! Is it a midnight execution? I shall endure it!
The cloaked figure shakes its head, points scythe at Syndri.
Syndri’s wide eyes fall solemnly as he nods, steps forward.
(gasps, advances) Brother, no! They shall not take you this night!
(holds out hand to stop Magnar, takes deep breath, sadly) I’ve done enough resisting today. Opposing this shan’t make things any better, that’s evident. (follows cloaked figure)
The cloaked figure nods,
locks Magnar back into the cell.
(grasps bars, crestfallen, cries) But, Syndri!
Brother, please! I swore upon my own life! (clenches bars of cage, tears well, sniffs)
(solemnly, quietly) Worry not, brother, for this is not goodbye. In a matter of hours, Magnar, we shall
surely meet once again upon the golden streets of The
Other Side, in the presence of The Shining Lord.
The cloaked figure has had enough of the sappy talk.
It yanks Syndri away, pushing him down the hall.
Syndri sulks, guided by the cloaked figure,
dragging the ball and chain along on the ground behind him.
--SCENE SKIPS TO OUTSIDE THE PRISON--
Once outside, Syndri and the cloaked figure climb into a horse-drawn carriage.
The horses canter the two away.
Syndri looks back at the prison entrance,
notices that every one of the guards on and around the building are asleep.
(glances back at cloaked figure, skeptical,
accusingly) Who are you? (slightly edgy) The devil himself taking me directly to hell? If so, that’s
definitely not where I believe I belong--
(whispers, slightly less deep, slightly less manly, abruptly) Shut! ….SHUT UP! (clears throat, growls in anger, mumbles) egads! it’s wearing off…
The horses gallop farther into the wood.
After some time, Syndri tries again for an answer…
(louder, suspicious) I said, WHO ARE---?
Syndri is interrupted as the cloaked figure covers his mouth with its hands.
Just then, the carriage stops.
They have arrived at a little cottage in the middle of the wood.
Syndri can see the person’s eyes in the moonlight.
It is a woman. It is Princess Valonia!
(whispers) Princess Valonia?
(slowly removes hood, voice cracks) Yes. (coughs,
voice normalizes) Yes, Syndri. It is I.
(breathes, smiles, still confused) But, Your
Highness… How?? And why?
During the night, I snuck out of my father’s castle.
I’d prepared special drinks for the guards…
(approaches the prison in carriage, calls out sweetly) Yoohoo! Merry men! Father has sent me to reward you brave and kindly fellows with a well deserved …elixir…
The knights arise and cheer with glee.
Leaving their posts, they gather around Valonia’s carriage
and consume of the beverages she provided unto them.
(narrates, slickly) Only, father hadn’t sent me, really. I took it upon myself to make the drinks… To POISON the drinks… with Slumaberry sap. As they began to drink and become merry, they soon also grew drowsy. (knights yawn, doze) I waited, watching (giggles) and smiling all the while. (gasps) And, then, when the guards were all fast asleep? I pulled on my cloak and glided into the prison.
--FLASHBACK ENDS, RETURN TO PRESENT--
Valonia jumps out of the carriage,
leads Syndri into the cottage where she fully removes her black cloak.
The cloak drops to the ground,
revealing a busty dress with a slimming figure.
(epiphany) Oh! Now I understand! We saved you,
you save us! I appreciate you returning the favor,
milady. (smiles, bows)
(smirks, slyly) Oh, I am returning no favor.
I am only getting what I want. And then, I’ll return you back to the cell so my father can get what he wants.
Syndri’s eyes widen.
(inches up to Syndri, low, sultry, seductively)
Don’t you desire that final evening with a… (sigh,
emphasize) beautiful maiden… before you are put to
death? (fingers Syndri’s hair, runs hand down his
(stutters) Well… …your highness… to be honest, I
do not. (clears throat, inhales, straightens spine,
confidently) I’d much rather spend my final night in
that dungeon cell with my brother.
(gasp in shock, disgusted) Absurd! (disbelief)
You’d give up one final encounter of love to be in
a dusty dungeon with a musty brute?
But, my brother is no brute. And he actually cares for me. I cannot be sure that you do. After all, you’ve only known me for less than a fortnight. My brother has known me all my life.
(appalled) What?! That isn’t at all what I
mean. I can love you like the girls you’ve
(shakes head) Your highness, I’m afraid fatherly love and brotherly love is all I’ve ever known…
(gasps in disbelief) Are you implying that you’ve never been loved by a woman?
(sentimentally) To tell the truth, I often
experience fond but distant memories of motherly love.
(gazes off, sighs) She was only around when I was but
a child, even still I can sense her very presence
around me as I--
Princess Valonia interrupts.
(annoyed) Not FAMILY LOVE! (calms, moans) What I
am talking about… it’s SOMETHING ELSE entirely.
(breathes) Don’t worry. I’ll show you…
Princess Valonia pokes her hand underneath
the fabric of Syndri’s shirt, tickles his chest.
Syndri flinches in severe discomfort.
(murmurs softly) You mustn’t have ever… done anything like this before… (eyes, breathes) Don’t be shy… It’s alright...
(severely uncomfortable) I--
I am not shy. (breathes) I-I simply don’t--
(growls, angrily) Just kiss me, fool! (slaps Syndri’s face, immediately kisses his cheeks and neck)
(uncomfortably turns head, pulls away, strains)
Princes, please! I don’t care to--
(angrily) Hold me! (shakes Syndri’s shoulders)
(super uncomfortably, tinge of anger) I--well--I can’t!
(demands) Yes you can! Just do it!
(insistant) I’m afraid I simply can’t--
(angry, annoyed, huffs quickly) Just because
you’ve never done something before doesn’t mean
you can’t do it now!!!
(fussing, loudly, quickly) I mean I can’t because I
(gasps, realizes) OHHHHHHH! (epiphany) You aren’t shy… you’re shackled! That’s what you were trying to say. (smiles, kindly) I’m sorry. I understand. Hold on a moment. (digs into her bosom, pulls out key, unlocks Syndri’s chains)
As the chains fall to the floor,
Princess Valonia pulls Syndri by the shirt
rising up on her tiptoes to his face.
(dramatic, longingly) Oh, just take me. Take me now!
Syndri has had quite enough,
pushes Princess Valonia to the ground.
(grunts, cries out) ugh! (gasps, glances up at Syndri, surprised countenance)
Syndri quickly kneels down beside her on the floor.
(breathes, desire) Oh, yes, Syndri… you’re ever so
strong… (gazes lustfully into Syndri’s eyes)
(grasps Princess Valonia’s wrists, pulls them over her
head, leans in towards her ear, whispers,) Your Highness… I’m sorry…
Syndri suddenly leaps up and dashes away.
(shocked, yells) Wait! NO! You were doing so well! Where are you going! (tries to start after him, is yanked back by chains.
SYNDRI HAS SLICKLY SHACKLED THE PRINCESS WITHOUT HER NOTICING!
(yanks, strains, growls) YOU nettlesome little milquetoast! (shouts, screams,) SYNDRI! I ORDER YOU BACK HERE AT ONCE! (squeals) I AM A PRINCESS! (scowls) YOU SHALL OBEY MY WORD! (growls) MY FATHER WILL KILL YOU!!!!!!! (shrieks)
Syndri ignores her babbling,
finds the horse and carriage outside,
rides off back in the direction of the prison to fetch his brother.
Broken Promises Result in Death
He had promised never to pick up a sword again, but there he stood, sword in hand, as Horatio quivered to the ground; chest spewing blood.
“Forgive me,” Syndri gasped, backing away as he stared into the dulling eyes of the mustached man, “Forgive me!”
Dropping the rapier, he turned on his heel and ran as fast as he could. He didn’t know where he was going (or why for that matter) but he had to run. His heartbeat increased rapidly as the moment replayed over and over again in his mind. The sound of Horatio’s sword clanking against his own haunted him. He could hear it clearly as if it were still happening. He saw the glint of the sun’s rays dancing upon their shiny blades as they repeatedly clashed into each other. The towering forest around them stood still in silence holding its breath.
“Please, leave me be,” he heard his own voice quiver.
But Horatio paid him no mind, relentlessly striking away.
The vision abruptly stopped as Syndri tripped over a rock. Crashing to the ground, it felt to him DejaVu- for, just a few moments ago he had stumbled over Vance’s lifeless body. Horatio smirked at this and continued onward towards the fallen Syndri. Horatio stabbed his sword into the ground at the left of him, then stabbed at the right of him, but Syndri rolled in the opposite direction each time, finally landing next to Vance’s rapier. There was a lump in Syndri’s throat. He didn’t know why he’d picked it up. He knew that, just by holding the sword in his hand, he’d violated his vow to The Shining Lord.
Instinctually blocking what would have been Horatio’s final strike with the dead man’s weapon, he slashed with such a force causing his attacker to stumble back. This gave him enough time to roll backward and land on his feet.
“I’ve given you my gold, Horatio,” Syndri panted nervously, backing away, cautiously holding out Vance’s rapier towards the mustached man, “Please. Leave me be.”
“I shall not leave you be,” Horatio shouted, “For you have seen entirely too much. You witnessed me kill Vance, and you know that I have the gold. You’ll only tell your brother of this, and then you two will surely hunt me down.”
“Nonsense!” Syndri shivered, continuously backing up, “I-I- I will tell him not of this.”
“Then however will you explain why your share of the gold is missing?” Horatio slurred, steadily marching towards the lad, “And, how will you explain Vance’s death?”
“I’ll say that we were robbed!” Syndri blurted, thinking as quickly as his clever mind could (sometimes it worked best under pressure), “Yes. Yes. We were robbed, Vance was killed, and you fled for your life. I wouldn’t blame you and neither would Magnar.”
“I don’t buy it,” Horatio shook his head.
Syndri began to back up even faster.
“If you turn around and try to tun, just know that I have absolutely no problem with stabbing you in the back,” Horatio warned.
“Then I’ll carry on inching this way,” Syndri breathed.
Infuriated Horatio rushed towards him and the swordfight began.
Syndri fought hard to shake the memory and pick himself up off of the ground. Glancing up, he saw his brother in the distance walking towards him. This gave him the strength to run. As he ran, the sun shone brightly in his eyes, nearly blinding him. It reminded him of early that morning when that very sun had peeked through the green trees to awaken him.
He drew a deep breath of fresh air as he thanked The Shining Lord for allowing him to see another day; a day he thought would be wonderful. He quickly found out it would be anything but when he caught a glimpse of Horatio looming over Vance as he slept. The mustached man seemed to be feeling around for something, and Syndri knew exactly what. Nervously, he squinted his eyes again, peeping them open just enough to witness what the sneaky man was doing.
“Yes,” Horatio whispered as he retrieved the small sack of gold from Vance’s purse.
“Wha’ do you ‘hink you’re doin’?” Vance’s voice rang out, eyes barely cracking open. He had the kind of English accent where he didn’t quite pronounce his ’T’s. Syndri typically enjoyed the sound of his voice, but this time, it wasn’t as calm as usual (and for good reason).
“I think you know exactly what I’m doing,” Horatio smirked, backing away slowly, with the small sack clenched tightly in his fist.
Vance tensed, hand hovering over his rapier.
“I wouldn’t try that if I were you,” Horatio grinned, slowly pulling out his own sword.
By this time, Vance’s eyes were wide open.
“You aren’ gonna geh’ away wit this, takin’ my gold n’ all,” Vance frowned.
“It isn’t yours, my friend,” Horatio laughed.
“Isn’ yours ei’her, mate,” Vance gritted his teeth.
“Well, it is now, because I’m taking it,” Horatio said as he faced away from him.
“O’er my dead boh’y,” Vance growled as he drew his rapier and lifted up slightly.
Horatio, clearly expecting this, smiled and quickly turned on his heel, piercing clean through Vance’s heart with his sword easier than an old man squashing a bug with the tip of his cane.
“You couldn’t be more correct,” Horatio chortled as he sheathed his sword again.
Vance made a faint sound as he dropped his rapier into the grass beside him.
Syndri’s eyes could squint no longer. In fact, they opened wider than they ever had before. Knowing that he couldn’t pretend to be asleep anymore, Syndri started up and immediately untied the sack of gold coins from his belt and threw it at Horatio’s feet.
“Here! Have it! Take it all!” He sputtered, scrambling backward on his hands and feet as he frightfully stared into Horatio’s evil eyes.
Horatio only smiled and stepped over the sack. He steadfastly walked towards the terrified lad.
“I’ve given you my share!” Syndri panted, “You can take it!”
Horatio said nothing, but lifted his sword and brought it down on what would have been Syndri’s head if not for him blocking it with his RodStaff. Weapons interlocked, both breathing hard, they stared into each other’s eyes.
“Take it? I don’t think so,” Horatio growled, kicking the wooden rod from the lad’s grasp, “Not until after I’ve taken your life first.”
Syndri remembered when he and his brother Magnar had traveled to Cloddendale. They had accosted the bandit and were on the road to take the stolen coins back to their rightful owner when they decided to stop in the tavern (Magnar’s horrible idea). There, they saw three men seated at a table; Gunther, a brown-haired scruffy man, Vance, a young, blonde man, and Horatio, a slick, suave, black-haired, mustached man. The latter called the brothers over and offered to guide them through the mountains. He offered to teach them how to avoid bandits who make their lairs in the hills. He told them to leave their mounts at the bottom of the mountain as they camped so that any robbers who might pass by in the even wouldn’t hear the horses neigh. He told them to split the gold amongst themselves so that if one of them were robbed, not all of the gold would be lost.
He told them that they should camp in different spots- he with Syndri and Vance, Magnar with Gunther- so that it would be harder for them all to be found by attackers.
Magnar thought this man to be smart.
Syndri had his suspicions, but it was too late now.
He couldn’t take any of it back, and he couldn’t forget it either.
He would never forget it.
“There you are, Syndri!” Magnar chuckled as he walked towards his younger brother. His armor was missing, and so was his gold. He reasoned that Gunther had taken it while he was asleep. His notion was correct, and the scruffy little man was now long gone, “It appears we’ve been playe-- oof!” Syndri plowed his head into his brother’s chest and, had he not have been so muscular, Magnar surely would have been tackled to the ground.
“Forgive me! Forgive me!” was all he could hear Syndri mumble through the tears that now soaked through his white shirt, “I’M A MONSTER!”
“There, there, brother!” Magnar bellowed, “Whatever is the matter with you?”
As the young man sobbed, Magnar looked in the direction from which his brother had come and saw a body lying out in the clearing.
“Is that... Horatio?” he asked in surprise.
“Yes!” Syndri nodded through his crying.
“You--” Magnar smirked in pride, “I didn’t know you had the heart to do it.”
“I didn’t!” Syndri wailed, “I don’t!”
Magnar patted him on the shoulder, still smiling at the thought that his brother had finally manned up to kill someone.
“I broke my promise...” Syndri whimpered, face still buried in his brother’s chest, “I betrayed The Shining Lord...”
“I’m sure it was in self-defense, brother,” Magnar breathed, patting the lad’s dark head of curls, “The Shining Lord will understand.”
“Will He, really!?” Syndri cried rhetorically in anger, finally looking into his brother’s blue eyes.
“But of course,” Magnar smiled, trying not to laugh at his brother’s lamentation, “Certainly, had you not done whatever you did, you would have been the one over there lying on the ground.”
“But-” Syndri sniffled.
“And, then I, too would be on the ground, because father would end my life for taking you on adventures with me and getting you killed.”
This caused Syndri to exhale a faint laugh. He took a deep breath and wiped away as many tears as he could.
“I’ve killed several men myself,” Magnar bellowed, “Do you think me to be a monster?”
Syndri shook his head
“Alrighty then,” Magnar grinned, “Neither are you, brother. As The Shining Lord says, there is a time to be born, and a time to die. A time to heal, and a time to kill. Know ye not this?”
“Of course I know this. But, it’s a strange feeling... to take another’s life,” Syndri pondered, “How do you enjoy it?”
“I enjoy it not,” Magnar pouted, “But I consider it to be a necessary evil, so I’m at peace with it.”
Syndri nodded and looked away. Magnar put his arm around his brother’s shoulder and the pair walked off to the base of the mountain to see if their horses were still there.
Her gaze landed upon him gentler than the forest breeze. His heart stopped as he stared back. They'd only left camp to collect kindling, but a different kind of spark ignited. Magnar hazily drifted towards Anselma until her back was against a tree. She sighed as her hands found his shoulders and her eyes closed. The kiss was soft and sweet. She breathed his name as their lips parted and lingered, hovering to touch again when--
"Magnar? Anselma?" Syndri called, walking up the way, "Brother, where are you?"
The couple giggled.
Another moment interrupted by the lad but cherished nonetheless.
Refusal to Fight
The brawny brute grabbed the scrawny lad by the collar and grunted, vile breath seeping through his gritted teeth.
“The only reason Magnar won’t accept my challenge is you!” he fumed, “Tell him to fight me OR ELSE.”
“Listen, Fritjof,” Syndri strained, “My brother has no reason to fight an innocent man--”
“INNOCENT?!” Fritjof retorted.
“Perhaps innocent you are not,” Syndri smiled awkwardly, “but you have committed unto him no offense.”
Fritjof growled as he slammed Syndri against a nearby tree, causing the lad to wince.
“I said, make him fight me,” Fritjof slurred.
“I’m afraid I simply cannot do such a thing,” Syndri breathed, “My brother has a mind of his own and, with it, he does what he so chooses--”
“Make him choose!” Fritjof roared, pressing Syndri into the tree a little harder, “He always seems to listen to you.”
“I tell you this day, if I were to suggest such an illogical act, Magnar would likely believe I’d gone mad!” Syndri laughed nervously, “Besides, it is the very essence of his heart that is against such deeds. You see, he’s devoted to The Shining Lord, now. He’s put away childish things.”
Fritjof drew out his jewel-encrusted dagger by the golden handle and traced its blade along the folds of Syndri’s leather armor.
“Have you called me childish, bumbling fool?” Fritjof asked in fury, raising the dagger up to Syndri’s neck.
“No, sir. Not at all, sir,” Syndri stammered, lifting his chin, “I meant--”
Suddenly, the two men looked to a distant noise ringing through the forest. A series of footsteps and a voice calling out: “Syndri? Syndri? Where are you, brother?”
“He’s coming along quickly now,” Fritjof gasped quickly turning back to the lad, “Tell him to accept my challenge. That is all I ask of you.”
“...alright...” Syndri hesitated, “But I am sure that he will still refuse. He has grown from the lad he was long ago. He has no reason to fight you, and so he shant.”
Fritjof exhaled in disappointment, realizing that he may never fulfill his wish of challenging The Great Magnar of Dryhtenhaven. Lowering the blade away from Syndri’s throat, he sighed and turned away.
“It’s not as if he has a vendetta against you,” Syndri murmured involuntarily as Fritjof loosened his grip.
At the sound of these words, Fritjof’s eyes lit up and his fist grasped hold of the lad’s collar once again. Syndri realized his mistake, but it was too late. He despairingly gazed into the killer’s sinister eyes as he felt the blade plunge through his side.
“Thanks for the idea,” Fritjof smiled evilly, “Should have thought of it myself.”
Syndri stumbled back against the tree, dazed eyes lost in the sunbeams streaming down in the forest all around him. He looked to the red Weapalu ribbon tied around the jewel-encrusted handle of the dagger that was pierced through his side; crimson as the blood flowing out all around it. At the sight of this, Syndri began to feel even more sick and light-headed. His breaths became shallower as the initial painless shock faded into a gradual hurt, then a piercing pang with each breath. The sounds all around him were muffled as if he were submerged underwater. His vision blurred as Magnar and Anselma swiftly walked into the clearing.
Fritjof mounted his horse with a sinister smirk.
“Meet me on the beach at Brimcliff for our duel,” he said just loud enough for Magnar to hear him as he turned his steed.
“Most certainly not!” Magnar stomped at him as he fled, “I refuse to fight you and that is final.”
“We’ll see about that,” Fritjof murmured as he sped away.
Anselma smiled and shook her head as her husband yelled after the brute, briefly shooting an amused look at Syndri who was leaning against the tree.
“Flee to those cliffs and far beyond!” Magnar raised his fist and shouted with a laugh as Fritjof and his horse became a distant blur among the trees, “Leave Dryhtenhaven altogether and never return!”
As she admired her husband’s decision not to fight the warrior, Anselma glanced over at Syndri again and noticed that something appeared to be wrong with him. His eyes dashed around frantically as he reached out for her. Too frazzled to speak clearly, he muttered as he fell upon her. She quickly thrust out her hands to support him, but he limply collapsed half in her arms.
“Magnar!” she cried loudly in a shaky voice as she struggled to catch the injured lad, “Magnar! It’s Syndri!”
Magnar, still shouting and laughing after Fritjof finally turned to see Syndri lying on his back and Anselma crouched down beside him; eyes instantly settling upon the golden dagger protruding out of the lower left side of his brother’s abdomen. Syndri’s chest heaved up and down as he gasped for breath, eyes dancing back and forth between his sister-in-law and his brother who fell to his knees at his left.
Anselma stared in awe and worry at Syndri’s wound and the pool of blood soaking through his garments. Magnar gazed upon him in surprise, anger, and disbelief. For a few seconds, all was silent and still, save Syndri’s deep gulps for air that gradually subsided into quick, shallow breaths.
“Brother,” Magnar finally spoke, “Are you alright, brother?”
Syndri half shook his head and half nodded at once.
“Are you hurt? You are hurt,” Magnar stuttered in panic, glancing all about.
Anselma raised her hands to cover her mouth. Her heart was beating fast as she assessed the situation.
“Syndri, brother,” Magnar continued, half worried and half angry, “Who has done it? Who has done this thing unto you?”
Deep down, Magnar knew the answer to his own question, but he couldn’t bring himself to believe that a lowly dastard such as Fritjof would go so far as to murder someone just to convince an opponent to participate in a petty duel. He also didn’t want to come to terms with the fact that his own refusal to fight had brought this grievous thing upon his brother.
Syndri nodded, for he knew that Magnar could guess who had done it. Magnar glanced over at the spot where Fritjof had stood just moments before. Clenching his teeth and fists, he decided not to immediately act in anger, but to address the situation at hand. His brother was dying. He needed to act quickly if he wanted to spare him. Breathing heavily and glancing all around in a panic, Magnar quickly settled on what to do first. He swiftly rent the fabric of his own clothing and attempted to compress the wound.
“Here!” he grunted authoritatively, “We must get that horrid dagger out of you.”
“No!” Anselma and Syndri cried simultaneously, the former reaching out to stop her husband’s hands, and the latter instinctively grasping at the wounded area to shield it.
Magnar looked up in surprise.
“No. One should never remove a sharp object from a deep wound such as this,“ Anselma pleaded, “Doing so would only bring about more harm and pain-- the blood will drain ever more quickly, and the little time left will surely be lost.”
Syndri nodded in approval of this statement.
“Alright then,” Magnar said hesitantly, gently wrapping the piece of fabric around the dagger, “It’s okay. Take deep breaths, Syndri.”
“I-- I can’t-” Syndri gasped, “It pains me to breathe.”
“Shall I fetch you some water?” Magnar asked, trying to think of anything that could help.
“I--I--” Syndri shook his head slightly, then tried to speak, “My time in this realm is drawing nigh.” His eyes began to wander up through the leaves of the trees around them.
“No, it isn’t!” Magnar half laughed very nervously as one in denial, “You mustn’t say such.”
Syndri closed his eyes and shook his head.
“Just listen, brother,” Magnar frowned, “I shall get help for you.” Saying this, he attempted to arise, but Syndri’s bloodied hand quickly grasped his arm.
“Please, brother, don’t! Don’t leave me, I pray thee,” he quickly spat, breathing heavily with worry and fear in his eyes, “I will have surely given up the ghost by the time you return from town with a physician.”
“Nonsense,” Magnar argued, “It won’t take me very long--”
“Please,” Syndri gulped, “I-- I don’t want-- to die alone-- lying-- out here with no one to comfort me.”
Magnar shook his head in disbelief and turned to his wife.
“Anselma!” Magnar said hurriedly, “Anselma will stay with you.”
“Brother... please--” Syndri breathed erratically, holding on tighter to Magnar’s arm, “I have not much more time in this earth.”
“Alright,” Magnar exhaled contemplatively, “Anselma can get help, and I will stay--”
Syndri clenched his eyes shut and Magnar observed that he was holding tightly to Anselma’s hand as well.
“There isn’t time-” he breathed weakly.
“He’s right,” Anselma murmured, “The village is at least a mile out, and I couldn’t possibly run there and back--”
Magnar glanced up as Syndri’s horse whinnied.
“We can take him to town on the horse!” Magnar suggested.
“Nonsense!” Anselma reflexively shouted, with an alarmed look, “We cannot move him at all! Doing such could cause the knife to do far worse damage than already is being done.”
Magnar looked to Syndri (who was much versed in medical knowledge) for confirmation. The lad blinked and nodded lightly.
“Besides, the motion of the horse will cause much discomfort to him,” she barked harshly in a low voice through clenched teeth, “His final moments will be gruesome and he’ll surely arrive at the village a dead man.”
“Then, what can be done?” Magnar asked in a worried tone.
Anselma glanced down at Syndri, then solemnly shook her head.
“Nothing. Nothing can be done,” Syndri struggled, shaky eyes gazing off into the leaves of the canopy above them, “Brother, I shall soon be gone from this place.”
Magnar’s eyes grew big. His eyebrows lowered in thought, then lifted optimistically.
“It is not so, brother. Something can be done, I’m sure of it,” He said, but it was more of a question than a statement.
“I’m afraid not,” Anselma said solemnly, “The nature of the injury is far too great.”
“...Then, whatever shall we do?” Magnar asked.
“We can only stay with him and comfort him…” she whispered softly, weary eyes drifting to Syndri, “Until...”
“Please do not abandon me until you are sure that my spirit has left me,” Syndri breathed quietly, “I would hate to die alone.”
“Nonsense, brother!” Magnar croaked, “You mustn’t speak that way.”
“It is a fate we all must face one day,” Syndri murmured, “And I shall face it today.”
“No. No. Not so! It’s quite alright, brother,” Magnar rambled, “You’ll be alright. You’ll have to be alright.”
“Yes, brother. I will be alright...” Syndri breathed, “...in the next world.”
“NO! Not in the next world! In this world!” Magnar shouted, half in anger, half in sorrow, for his voice raised but cracked slightly, “You must be alright, brother! You simply must. I swore upon my life to protect you!”
“And you’ve done a fine job of it,” Syndri said softly.
“A fine job!?” Magnar retorted in disgust of himself, “No I haven’t! Look at you!” he motioned to his brother and glanced at the golden dagger that sat firmly amidst a fountain of scarlet flowing from his side.
“You couldn’t have known,” Syndri whispered.
“I could have known! I should have known!” Magnar yelled, more at himself than anyone else.
Anselma watched with a quivering lip, still clutching Syndri’s right hand and arm tightly; his fingers intertwined with hers as he began to tremble.
“This.. is not.. your fault, brother,” Syndri assured him, voice cracking in pain.
“Yes, it is! It is all my fault,” Magnar retorted quickly.
“No it isn’t, Magnar,” Syndri sputtered, “You mustn’t blame yourself.”
“I am solely to blame,” Magnar insisted.
“No, you are not,” Syndri pleaded.
“YES I AM!” Magnar growled.
“No, you--” Syndri’s sentence was interrupted by a sharp intake of breath and a grimace as pain shot through his body. Struggling to compose himself, he looked up at Magnar.
“Shall our final exchange be bickering words?” he asked slowly and deliberately.
This caused Magnar to take a deep breath in realization that these truly were their last moments together. He caught his breath in his throat and stared down into Syndri’s innocent, olive green, child-like eyes. He admired the lad ever so. He was shy but very wise- wise with a wisdom that must have been imparted unto him from The Shining Lord Himself.
Magnar’s blue eyes began to well with tears as the thoughts hit him- all the memories of times spent together, all the adventures they’d gone on, all the times he had rescued Syndri, and all the times Syndri had rescued him (whether Syndri realized it or not)... Magnar looked up to Syndri, although the lad was his younger brother, and it was evident that Syndri was the one who was supposed to (and who really did) look up to him. Magnar was the brave, gallant, strong, fighting, hunting, heroic one. But Syndri was the gentle, meek, kind, smart, careful one. Magnar’s breaths grew heavier and heavier as he took his brother’s hand into his own. He closed his eyes in acquiescence and nodded solemnly. Observing this, Anselma began to weep silently.
“What do you desire to say to me, brother?” Magnar asked calmly.
“....There…in my mind… I...” Syndri stuttered as the pain intensified, “There are so many things all at once… yet nothing at all… I cannot seem to gather my thoughts.”
Magnar’s face fell to sorrow.
“Besides...” Syndri breathed, “It… it pains me to speak...”
“Then...” Magnar started apprehensively, “What do you desire to hear of me?”
Syndri’s breaths became shallower as he grew colder and weaker. He clenched his brother’s hand tightly and shivered.
“Please...” he stammered after pondering for a moment, “Please, tell me of The Other Side… once more before-- before I behold its full glory firsthand-- with my own eyes.”
Magnar’s heart dropped at the thought of his brother departing, but his mouth curled into a crestfallen smile as he tightened his grasp upon Syndri’s hand.
“Of course, brother,” he breathed, holding back tears, “It is a glorious place....”
Syndri’s eyebrows lifted as Magnar began the story.
“The streets are pure gold, and the gates are built with magnificent pearls,” Magnar continued, “As you enter, you will hear the angelic voices of the heavenly choir singing praises to The Shining Lord.”
Syndri smiled slightly, his eyes drifting away from his brother and up towards the sunlit heavens. Anselma formed a sad smile, blinking a few more tears from her eyes.
“You will hear the music and you will dance upon those streets of gold,” Magnar stated, choking up a bit.
“And, then,” he proceeded with a flourish, “THEN. You will see the great beasts surrounding the throne, and you will behold the beautiful face of the One upon the throne, The Shining Lord Himself, in all His glorious honor;” his voice lowered into a dramatic tone, “The one. True. God.”
Still holding Syndri’s hand with his left, he gently stroked his younger brother’s curly black hair with his right hand as the lad closed his eyes.
“And, behold, you shall also see the flowing rivers of living water,” Magnar smiled, a tear escaping from one of his blue eyes, “For the crystal clear river of life flows from the throne and all around the city. . .”
As Magnar paused to take a breath, Syndri’s eyebrows drew close and he gently squeezed his brother’s hand.
“No, Syndri,” Magnar breathed a laugh, more tears falling from his eyes, “I haven’t forgotten the tree. Oh, the beautiful tree. The tree of life that yields twelve manner of fruits.”
Anselma exhaled a sob as her smile quivered, her right hand still tightly clutching Syndri’s, her left wiping tears away from her face.
“And ye shall eat of the fruits and drink of the water and never again hunger or thirst,” Magnar’s voice grew unstable as another tear leaked from his eye, “You shall meet The Shining Lord... and all those in this world who were lost--- Even mother! Sweet mother.”
Hearing this, a teardrop streamed from Syndri’s closed eyes.
“All of you will gather at the great table, brother,” Magnar sniffled, still stroking Syndri’s hair, “And there shall be feasting and celebration alway.”
“And...” because of The Shining Lord,” his voice calmed into a whisper as Syndri’s weak hand had loosened its grasp, “The city shall be full of light forever and ever.”
Anselma inhaled and looked at Magnar. They both looked over Syndri and saw that his movements and breathing had slowed severely, nearly ceasing.
“We WILL. Meet again, brother.” Magnar breathed in a voice full of determination with a hint of sadness, “I promise that.”
For a few moments, Anselma and Magnar sat, glancing over Syndri in anticipation of any final vital signs, gestures, or words from the lad. When his brother produced nothing, Magnar inhaled and let go of his hand.
“He... is gone?” Anselma asked in a whispered breath as she herself let go of Syndri’s other hand. Magnar looked down solemnly. Anselma nearly reached over Syndri to place her hand upon her husband’s shoulder when, suddenly, there was a sharp intake of breath.
“Wait!” Syndri shouted as he shot up into a sitting position, reaching out in front of himself and looking straight ahead with crazed eyes.
“Wait? What?” Magnar blurted quickly with a serious countenance that masked his surprise, “I haven’t left you, Syndri!”
“Brother, please don’t go!’ Syndri cried.
“I’m right here, brother!” Magnar said, taking hold of Syndri’s shoulders, though the lad still seemed to be reaching out and looking straight in front of him.
“You mustn’t go!” Syndri continued in a panic, “Please, you shan’t!”
“I’m here, Syndri!” Magnar said boldly, “By your side until the very end.”
“You cannot! I beg of thee!” Syndri panted.
“Cannot what?” Magnar asked in worry, “Mustn’t go where?”
“D-dd-d-don’t--Magnar,” Syndri sputtered.
“Don’t what?” Magnar shouted in confusion.
“Please, don’t--” Syndri exhaled before his voice ceased in his throat.
“Brother?!” Magnar called again but received no response, “What is it, Syndri?!” Magnar slightly shook his brother whose limbs slowly relaxed to his sides. “Speak to me!” Magnar choked up, breathing heavily with sorrow.
Seeing that his attempts were to no avail, Magnar laid him back down on his back. Anselma sobbed at the sight of Syndri’s inert eyes staring up at the heavens above where his soul had surely gone. Magnar’s surprise and sadness quickly faded to anger as he roared loudly with all his might. His chest heaved in fury as he pushed himself to his feet and began pacing back and forth. Anselma sniffled and slowly took Syndri’s hands, folding them upon his chest. Then, she gently closed his eyes and planted a tender kiss upon his cheek.
“CURSE YOU, FRITJOF!” Magnar yelled with clenched fists, “CURSE THE DAY YOU WERE BORN!”
Anselma shook her head in tears as she watched her husband’s rage.
“Killing an innocent lad, just so that I might fight you?!?” he growled, “You dare challenge me?! Is that what you really want!?!?”
Magnar swiftly stepped over to his brother’s corpse and violently yanked the dagger from his side, causing Anselma to gasp in horror.
“THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED!?!?” his bellows echoed through the forest, “VERY WELL, THEN! I ACCEPT YOUR WRETCHED CHALLENGE! You will surely regret this! For this duel between you and I will surely be your LAST.”
“Magnar,” Anselma wept, struggling to her feet and walking up behind her angered husband.
“FRITJOF,” he huffed again, “I VOW UPON MY LIFE THAT I WILL FIND YOU THIS DAY AND I WILL--”
“MAGNAR!” she screamed, grasping her husband by the shoulder, “Please, don’t.”
“I will find him and there is nothing you can do to stop me,” Magnar said angrily, yanking away from her.
“This is not the answer,” she pleaded, “These actions-- they are unnecessary.”
“Unnecessary?!” Magnar roared, “Who are you to say such a thing? He killed MY brother!”
“Yes, I know Syndri was your brother,” her voice crackled as she gently touched her husband’s cheek, “And he was my brother. He was everyone’s brother. Do you think this is what he would have wanted? What do you suppose he was trying to tell you at the last?”
“IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT HE WAS TRYING TO TELL ME,” Magnar roared, grasping his wife by the wrist, “He’s dead now and I must avenge him.”
“But, Magnar,” Anselma protested as he threw her hand down and turned away.
“You don’t understand,” he breathed, “I swore upon my life to protect him and I failed.”
“You did not fail,” Anselma retorted.
“Yes I did,” Magnar spat, “If I couldn’t protect him in life, I will avenge him in death.”
“Magnar--” Anselma whimpered.
“Take him to my father,” Magnar pointed to Syndri, “So that he may behold him. And, then, give him a proper burial.”
“Shan’t you be present at the burial?” she asked.
“No use in that,” he murmured, tucking the dagger away and mounting Syndri’s horse, “Now, do as I have said, woman.”
“Havardir has already lost one son,” she argued, “Do you suppose he cares to lose another?”
“My life no longer has any worth,” Magnar bellowed in anger, “I broke the one important promise that ever really mattered, and now my only purpose is to slay the slayer.”
“What about me, Magnar?” she wept, leaning forward against the horse on which he was mounted.
“What about you?” Magnar grunted harshly, yanking the reins so that the steed cantered out of place.
Anselma gasped, taken aback by her husband’s response.
”...I’m sorry,” Magnar exhaled, “But this is something that simply must be done.”
Anselma nodded, reluctantly backing away from the horse, “But, what if... what if he kills you?”
“If I die, so be it. Father would probably like it better if I were dead also,” Magnar said gravely, as he galloped away upon the steed, ” I swore upon my life, after all.”
“Magnar!!!” Anselma yelled after him, but he did not look back. Distressed, she stared at the lifeless body and the vast forest all around her.
“However am I supposed to do this? Alone with no horse?!” she wailed in frustration, “Do you expect me to drag him to town by the leg!?”
But Magnar was already afar off, so she collapsed against a tree and wept.