There was an ethereal beauty to the room; the candles glowing like the light of fireflies, dancing as they flickered to hold the demons at bay. Brennus knelt outside the ring of flames, eyes fixed on the body that lay in the centre; his gaze trapped as if hypnotised. In the centre of the protective circle, his father was at eternal rest. Wrapped in a white linen sheet that mummified him, he looked more like some limbless effigy than a Celtic warrior.
But a warrior his father had been, and a great one at that. He had kept the raiders at bay and fought off their enemies, leading the men into battle as an alpha male leading his wolf pack to glory. To die in battle would have been the way any warrior wanted to depart from this world, but the thought did not wash Brennus of his sorrows.
His sister and his father. Gone.
Already the others had turned to him for leadership; he was everything his father had been and, although it was not the Silure way to hand down the role of chieftain in a hereditary manner, they had decided Brennus would be a wise choice. And that meant there was work to be done. With heartache stabbing at his body, he rose and turned away.
Outside, in the new night that had followed the sorrows of the day, the hill fort was silent once more. Its wide expanse was spread with the mix of round houses that contained the warriors and protectorates of the land that surrounded them but it all seemed bleak and empty. A hundred or more souls slept on that dreary night but Brennus’ would not be able to rest.
Two warriors, men who had been personal guards of Dafydd and had fought with him till the end, stepped in line with Brennus as he exited the house; walking with him like two pillars either side of an archway. They were huge men, bigger than most in the village, but they had been unable to stop fate. The new chief could feel their presence either side; both were painted the battle colours to honour his father and protect his spirit, their own little gesture.
Walking along the paths, the three would look imposing to any, dark looks upon their wild faces, rough hair and blue bodies. Unlike the two sentinels, Brennus wore his tunic and braecci, dyed wool chequered brown and green. His cloak lay draped over his shoulders, though its warmth was not needed in the summer’s night. There was an inextinguishable cold that wrapped his soul.
Aside from the chief’s dwelling, the roundhouses were light brown, squat mushrooms, their thatched roofs almost reaching the floor. Outside a second house, another large colossus stood, this one staring ahead obediently, like a guard dog standing to attention. His spear was held in one hand, gripped tightly and ready for use. Nodding to him, Brennus took a torch that was tied to the wall and entered the building.
Within, suddenly illuminated and clenching his eyes due to the abrupt sting of light, was a Dobunni warrior, bound by the arms and legs and propped against the wall.
For him, it would be a long night.