Treading slowly, one foot stealthily placed in front of the other, Brennus silently edged towards the hovel door. Both hands firmly gripped the spear, poised to attack anyone who should jump out. The morning air was fresh but the staleness of the peasant’s dwelling assaulted his nostrils. He knew full well his task; this hut was familiar to him as he had only been here just a week ago, giving strict warnings to one of the peasants with a blow from his fist. As his father’s chariot thundered away, he took a quick glance into the house before relaxing his tense muscles.
The room, small with few belongings like most peasant farmer’s abodes, was empty of any intruder.
Sunlight was now illuminating the hovel and he knelt to study marks in the ground. His fingers reached out to trace the swirls and grooves that had been made in the dirt where a struggle had evidently taken place. They had taken someone.
His heartbeat quickened. Was it his sister?
Another shape in the darkness of the hovel’s edges caught his eye: a mound lying on one of the blankets that the peasants used as beds. Rising to his feet, unsure of what he would find but already knowing deep inside, he walked over to where the old man lay. Blood stained his clothing, a deep red patch like the madder dyes ground from vegetable roots. Only this dye would not be removed.
As Brennus looked down, the man seemed oddly at peace. He had known the aged villager, and much as he hated his son the father had been a good man. Always trying to dissuade his son from seeing Brennus’ sister, he had been unable to prevent the love affair. He relied on his son to help run the farm and this had prevented him from taking the matter further.
Brennus span around, spear poised.
There he was. A younger version of the slain father: black haired and slight of frame that had been made muscular by farm work. And of course a nose that was swollen and twisted to one side. His face, stained by the purple bruising that Brennus’ fist had caused, was full of surprise.
“My sister!” snapped Brennus, striding towards Caderyn, the ignorant fool who had tricked his sister into visiting night after night. Eyes still wide in shock the target of his anger simply stood frozen to the spot.
Brennus grabbed the man’s inar, the long jacket protecting Caderyn from any cold, and pushed him backwards into the open. All thoughts of the raiders were forgotten, “She was here! Where is she!”
The sudden assault seemed to snap Caderyn from his frozen posture and he tugged himself free, trying to get past into his home, “I left her here by the fire,” he barked, angered that his adversary had tried to assail him, “a cow was bawling and...” His eyes fell upon his father’s form and he rushed across to kneel by the old man’s side. Trembling with the emotions that welled up from deep inside, gates opened that he could not close and his head fell to the man’s chest, tears falling onto the corpse.
Turning away, Brennus looked across the fields to see what was happening. He would deal with Caderyn later.
The shouts and yells were coming from the woods now and it was obvious that the raiders had been pushed back into the forest. Perhaps they hadn’t even planned on a fight. Either way, it was where there that he had to be and he ran off across the fields of corn, the heads brushing against his bare waste as he joined the hunt.