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Chapter 5
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Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

 

 

5: Fire!

Ayrien and Tune rode their way, swiftly as a flying arrow, to find the village in a complete mess. People were running everywhere, children were crying for attention and from fear, men were shouting commands and suggestions. After observing for a few seconds, they could see that the massive activity is somewhat centered in one place - The druid's house. As druid houses tend to be, it was the central house of the village, and therefore, the closest to the fire. Right now, however, it wasn't only close to it - it was in fire.
One terribly loud voice, heard clearly above all the mess, had frozen Ayrien's blood: a baby was crying… from inside the burning house! She leapt from her horse in one jump and thrown the reins to Tune, hoping he will understand what he is supposed to do with them. A watching eye could not follow her unbelievingly fast run - the alert girl was not slowed even by the massive crowd that was spread all over.

She arrived to find the scene she had feared from. A few people were standing in positions around the torn-out door, holding wet blankets and buckets of water, ready to help a person that was obviously inside - trying to save the infant from a horrible death. She knew exactly who was inside, and that was what frightened her so much - just in front of the door a magnificent clock was thrown, its golden, delicate decorations reflecting the red fire, flickering…
Her father was in.
"Why didn't ya stopped him, ya fool!" She shouted at Drach Taru, her step uncle, who was standing there with a great bucket full to its top, ready to wet the out comers. "He's an old man! He can't go rescuing people like this anymore! It's too dangerous for him… he will be hurt! Can't you see it? He will surely be hurt!" A terrible, long sound of a coughing man came from inside the house, louder even then the roaring fire, as to approve her accusations.
"You know yer father, Ayri" He tried to calm her, approaching her like to a little child, reminding her why she could never get along with him. "He can't be stopped in time like this, can't he? Now be a good gal and step aside, we'll have to help him when he'll get himself out, won't we?"
Ayrien was furious. She was about to release her sharp tongue and answer him the way he deserves to be answered, when another cough was sound, louder and longer then before. "No, we wont. we have to help him NOW!" she cried. In one angry jump she grabbed a wet blanket from a surprised man that was standing there and leaped into the door.
"Ayrien!" a broken voice was heard, and the men still waiting outside the broken door turned to see Tune running toward there as well… but unlike the previous one to run there, he was stopped by his master - Finn.
"Hold it right there, lad." The cool voice and strong hand prevented Tune from following the girl into the fire.
"But… Ayrien…" For a brief moment he struggled to release himself, but not more than that - strong as his love to the new met girl may be, he was bound to the Fianna and their leader in much greater bounds. And besides that, Finn hadn't became lord of the Fianna without developing a grasp strong enough to restrain his too enthusiastic warriors…
"There are already too much people in that house, looking one for each other. You'll do no good in there. And as much as I understood, yer lassie can take care of herself fare'nough"
As he was speaking, the 'lassie' was out, holding the baby - who was no longer crying, since he fainted out. "Ayrien!" he called her again, leaping out from Finn's loosen grip - but he was too late. Before she could even notice him she was back in, searching for her father. A deep silence fell on, disturbed only by the roaring flames.
If the sound of the coughing frightened Ayrien, the silence pushed her far beyond fear. She should have already heard something - a coughing, the heavy breathing of a men surrounded by so much smoke, something…
Tears - from the dark smoke and the darker fear - blinded her eyes. "Make a sound, father, help me…" her voice broke, as she had noticed his figure on the other side of the living room, lying still under a burning rafter. She was there in a blink of an eye, almost hit by a falling beam herself. She was relieved to find, in closer examination, that the rafter was loosely laid on his right foot, which could be easily pulled out of there, even by her. But then a frozen hand grasped her heart - if he could be released so easily, why was he lying like that?
Ayrien moved the rafter and tried to help him wake up - no use. He was completely fainted. With a force she never knew is found in her she lifted him by the arm pit, dragging him through the room that was so short just a moment ago, and now seemed endless…
Finally, after a time that seemed like forever, she reached the door, and collapsed there to the sound of cheers and clapping of the entire village.

***

     Somewhere, not very far from there, Morena was walking to and fro, more then confused. She heard something terrible - too terrible to be true - and she didn't know what to do… She was desperate for advice, but couldn't dare saying anything. If anyone would know… she couldn't think about the consequences. It will surely hurt her family, hurt her, not to mention the entire village!
Deep in her heart, she knew she SHOULD tell, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so, especially because she know who the person she should tell it to is - her hated step cousin, Ayrien. Since Ayrien's father was chosen to lead the village instead of Morena's father, Drach, a hidden hostility lied between the two step brothers' families. "Sean Taru may be the elder", claimed Drach's family, "But he is not a real son to Taru! An adopted child, his roots unknown, can not inherit the place of the family!". Angry as they were, however, the villagers were with the Druid in that decision - they liked the good hearted charismatic Sean better then the harsh Drach. There where nothing Drach's family could do… and he was destined to sit at his house and watch his elder step brother as he gains more and more respect and glory - the glory HE deserved, not this rootless adopted that stole his place! And Morena… she was destined to watch her father, which once was a big, strong man, fading like this day after day.
Even if she wasn't the daughter of the one who stole her father's place, Morena doubted if she could like her step cousin, Ayrien - she was so snobbish, and selfish, and… and… wild!
And this is the one person she should go and tell a secret so terrible it will shake the village upside down and forever disgrace her family… no, she can't, she just can't!
Doubting and confused, wandering in the dark, Morena developed a mere hope it was no more then a practical joke - a twisted, wicked, evil one, but only a practical joke. She could find no other explanation… that just can't be the truth!

***

Ayrien was suddenly awake, breathing the sweat air of an early dawn.
"She's awake!" a joyful voice was the first thing she have heard, before even opening her eyes. "Hey Druid, come over hear! She's awake!"
"Hrrrrrrmm…" she heard the old druid's voice near her, probably examining his bag of medical plants. She smelled something - with a very sharp, fresh smell - and suddenly she felt strong enough to open her eyes. After blinking a few times because of the blinding sun's light, she could see a handsome man stooping over her. Tune… Tune was his name, something in her said.
"Where am I?" She wondered when she saw she's not home. She was lying on the hard ground… but why?
"You're in the village's center, Dear." Dear? The young man called her dear… was he her boyfriend? Her lover? Ayrien could not remember…
"But why am I here?" She asked, trying to get a grasp in reality.
There was a moment of silence… "Should we tell her, Druid?" Tell her? What are they afraid to tell her? What could possibly happened to cause her lying here, on the ground, in the middle of the village, after clearly being out of conscious? Looking around her, she finally noticed the black ruins of what once was the Druid's house… and suddenly, a brief painful memory of every thing that happened last night invaded her confused mind.
Her eyes widened in fear, and then - "My father! Where is my father?" Was they afraid to tell her that?…

Both Tune and the Druid could see the memories reflecting in her eyes. "He is right there", the Druid finally answered, pointing on another lying body, wrapped in blankets and cloaks, not far from where she was lying. Before the druid managed to tell her she shouldn't get up so soon, she was beside him, petting his old, sleeping face with a delicate hand. "Father… father…"
She called him softly, as trying to wake him from a night's sleep. Surprisingly enough, he did awake. "Ayrien? Where are you, my sweet child?"
His eyes were wide open, but he obviously could see nothing. Almost in tears, she answered "I'm here, father, right beside you"
"Ayrien…" his searching hand found hers, and clutched it as trying to gain a hold on this world. "I can't see y--" a rough coughing stopped him in the middle of the sentence. Gently but firmly she tapped on his back, and he spitted - to her complete terror, he spitted blood.
"Do something!" she cried, helplessly, toward the druid. Slowly and sadly, the druid nodded his head. "He was like that all night", he said. "We had tried everything. "I'm afraid that… I'm afraid that…" he put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I'm afraid there is no hope for him". Angrily, Ayrien shook off his hand. "That's not true!" she yelled, and then turned to her father again, whispering. "That's not true…that's not true… I won't let ya! I won't let ya die…" She held him, petting him like a sick baby.
"There is no hope for me any more, child. I can feel it". Taru was talking very quietly, but his voice was heard clearly in the silence that took over the place. "I can feel… the other world… already…"
"Don't talk, father… it's hard for you… don't talk…" tears burst out of Ayrien's eyes, leaving her as blind as her dying father.
"I must, my dear… child. I… must. Let it be known that… the head… of Taru… is leaving this… world, and that his place… is to be rightfully taken… by…" Ayrien recognized the ceremonial words and tried to protest, but she was too choked by her tears. "By… his bro…brother… lord… D..ra..ch… Ta..ru…" As the last word left his lips, Taru's head fell down on Ayrien's arm, his eyes closing peacefully.

Ayrien could not mind the uncomfortable hard ground, the people watching, freezing air, not even her reputation - she just held the dead body in her arms, crying silently, only the rough shaking of her body revealing the tragedy that just happened.

 

To Be Continued...

 

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