For disclaimer and further details see Part 1.
Rating: Teens, for this part. Disturbing images in flashbacks.
Rating: Teens, for this part. Disturbing images in flashbacks.
Day Nine – The Weaponsmith’s Wife
Supper was always a magnanimous affair in the ironsmith’s house, where four generations lived under the same roof, and sometimes, when the whole clan gathered together, more than thirty people sat around the huge oakwood table of the solar. As the men worked in the forge from morning to early evening, supper was also the main meal of the day, prepared and served – and devoured – with proper attention. Directing the complicated task was Mistress Tamsyn, the Master Smith’s wife, and it was done with the help of her daughter Keverne, her daughter-in-law Sabra, her granddaughters and the wives of her grandsons.
Delbaeth, the “fire-maker”, was one of those grandsons’ wives. She had got her unusual name from her father, a wandering cutler and swordsmith, whom she had used to help with his work when she was very young. Her parents practically lived on their wain, travelling from town to town, village to village or farmstead to farmstead, save in winter, when thy stayed on the one or other farmstead, trading their help for food and lodging, which was most of the time the hay attic above a stable. She had never known any other home ‘til she had turned fifteen.
In that particular year, her parents were heading for Halabor’s autumn fair when they ran into a band of raiding Easterlings. These had crossed the River to plunder the farmsteads scattered along the western bank. The plunderers had killed Delbaeth’s parents and had very nearly raped her to death. She had been found by the Wandering Elves of Gildor Inglorion and saved by Erinti, one of their healers. The Elves had then brought her to Halabor and left her in the care of Mistress Dorlas, the local midwife, who was raising another orphaned young girl already.
Delbaeth had lived with Mistress Dorlas and young Godith in the Square House, the former watchtower of the Old port, for almost two years. During this time, she happened to meet Selyv, the Master Smith’s grandson, a journeyman in his grandsire’s forge and a promising weaponsmith already. They fell in love, and although Mistress Tamsyn was not pleased with Selyv’s choice, they got married, after nearly a year of courtship.
‘Twas not so that Mistress Tamsyn would blame Delbaeth for the horrible fate she had suffered. Nay, the matron of the smithy was sympathetic and even supportive of the poor girl, and honestly so. But she thought her grandson could have chosen better. There were lovely daughters from respected craftsmen’s families who would have married Selyv gladly. Good, honest lasses, some with a trade of their own, but always with proper dowries, who had not been soiled already. She wished Delbaeth only the best – as long as it happened outside her own family.
Still, Delbaeth knew that she had been fortunate. Mistress Tamsyn might not approve, but that was only shown by the occasional raised eyebrow. She did not treat Delbaeth any differently than she would treat Eala, Ruan’s newly wedded wife, or her own granddaughter, Kea. And thus the others accepted Delbaeth, too.
The birth of her little daughter, Thola, two years ago, had come like an unexpected gift from Nurria, the lady of the pastures, herself. She had not hoped that she would be able to bear children at all, but it seemed that Elven healers knew things mere mortal did not. Or mayhap the russet-haired, green-eyed Erinti had used some Elven magic on her that only Wood-Elves could use. In any case, she was grateful.
Sometimes memories of that long gone day came back in the night to haunt her. She could feel the agony of being violated, again and again, ‘til she was little more than raw meat… the shame, the desperation… and, finally, the complete withdrawal of her self, watching that which was being done to her broken shell with cold detachment. And she woke up from those nightmares not screaming and sweating as one would think, but numb and unfeeling like a log. On those days, she would not bear the touch of Selyv, nor could she stay in the Master Smith’s house. She had to flee to the Infirmary, to hide in old Mistress Crodergh’s gardens for a while, ‘til the memory of the Elves would return.
She had not seen them again, for Elves seldom set foot into the dwellings of men, but she often dreamed about them. She even had known one of them from earlier, a tall and willowy Elf, dark-haired and grey-eyed. An Elf by the name of Bruithwir, who was a smith, and who had been a friend of her grandfather’s.
‘Twas a strange thing to imagine, as the old man had died when she was only four, and he had been old, wrinkled and hunchbacked already. Yet Elves did not age, and thus Bruithwir had remained youthful-looking and fair like a clear summer evening, unchanged every time they ran into each other. Her father said that the Elf had not looked any differently in his childhood, either.
The memory of Elves helped her every time when the horrid dreams came. The memory of their beautiful faces, noble and serene and almost translucent in their paleness. The way they moved noiselessly and seemingly without any effort. The touch of their slender hands, so gently and fleeting like a soft breeze upon her battered flesh. And their voices… they sounded like singing already when they only spoke, but when they were singing… There was nothing that could be compared with that.
She never understood what they were singing about, as they sang in their own tongue. But it sounded – and even felt – like soft spring rain upon the charred earth. It cleansed and healed one’s heart.
“Dreaming of Elves again?” the familiar voice of her husband asked from behind her back, and she turned around and found herself in Selyv’s embrace.
“I was remembering their music,” she replied, smiling. “I wish you had heard it. ‘Twas naught else in the world. I wonder where they might be right now.”
“On the road, as always. That is Wandering Elves for you,” said Selyv laughing and kissed her brow. “Come now, dearest, we must be on our way now, too. Grandmother would not approve if we were late for supper. Besides, I am famished.”
“When are you not?” teased Delbaeth, for indeed, her husband did have a very healthy appetite.
But he was also right. Mistress Tamsyn would be most displeased, were they not at the table in time. And it was very unwise to displease the Master Smith’s wife. Particularly in the time of Foreyule,
Thus Delbaeth smiled and followed her husband to the solar, to join the rest of the family.
~The End – for now~
Note: Delbaeth made it out of Halabor, with her daughter Thola, her sister-in-law Kea and with Mellof, the Master Smith’s son. No-one else of the family survived.