Renin's brother was dead five years from Fallcrow fever before he set out to tell his widow that he had loved her since he'd known her.
Renin’s brother was dead five years from Fallcrow fever before he set out to tell his widow that he had loved her since he’d known her.
His eagerness to finally tell her burned in his blood, and he pushed old Mallory fast through the fields of the coastlands and deep into Aothen forest. He barely stopped to rest, urging on his horse until he came to the turn in the forest path where the trail that would lead him to the river Ellia and her cabin broke off to the east. He reigned Mallory in.
What was he doing? Themel had been the love of Lyra’s life. How many times had he watched her face light up when he entered the room? Heard her lament his absence whenever they visited and Themel had to go away to the village. She had loved his brother so devotedly, with an intensity that only deepened when they learned that they could not have children—the news which he had secretly celebrated thinking that now there would be no bond of children to separate his own advances to her. Advances he had always dreamed of, but never had the courage to fulfill.
It didn’t matter that Themel was five years gone from the earth. Her love would not have abated, her heart would not have room for him in it. He turned Mallory around and had rode all the way back to the edge of the forest when he again stopped himself.
No. He couldn’t bury how he felt anymore. How the days when she visited with Themel were the happiest of his life, and how in the weeks after he felt more alive than ever in his normal life, like living in the lingering memory of a blissful dream. He had denied his feelings for so long, told himself they would go away, that he would find someone else, they he was a bastard for coveting his brother’s wife. He had told himself everything, but he could not deny the way he came alive around her. He was powerless to change his feelings. They simply were.
He turned Mallory back around and rode back to the turn in the path and off to the east, through the marshlands with golden grass up to Mallory’s belly, and finally to the deep, dark waters of the Ellia. Her house was only a league north of where the path ended, and the rose-colored sun was just starting to purple the sky in the west when he reached it.
He spotted Themel’s grave-stone beneath a massive oak tree behind the house near the garden, encircled by fresh milk-thistles and sun-flowers. Even now her heart is full with him, even now she has no room for you. It doesn’t matter, he told himself, it doesn’t matter. He gripped Mallory’s reins tight. She just has to know.
He tied Mallory to a post near the cabin door and knocked. When no response came he knocked again. She was probably lost in a book. He had gifted her a volume of the history of the Gallendy Kingdom once, and the memory of the delighted giggle that drew from here he remembered often.
After his third knock panic stirred within him and he was thinking of breaking a window to see what was the matter when he heard her call.
The door cracked, light from a candle spilling out. One of Lyra’s brown eyes peeked out at him, and she opened the door, a smile on her face. He as well as every man who had every seen her thought her a beauty. Tall and slender, with sand-colored hair she often wore in a bun behind her head, and with rich, brown eyes the color of chocolate. Age hadn’t marred her beauty, but refined it. The wrinkled at the corners of her slightly tilted eyes and the gray sprinkling the hair at her temples only made her more regal.
“Renin,” she said, embracing him. Gingerly, he embraced her back. The feel of her against him sent lightning through his veins.
“What a surprise, come in, come in.”
He tried to fortify himself as he followed her inside. You need to tell her now, now before you lose your nerve again.
She turned back to him, her smile making him smile. “I’m so glad you’re here. You’ll get to meet Gallen!”
An icy coldness dropped through his chest and settled into his belly. “Ga-Gallen?”
“Yes, he’s out hunting in the woods right now but should return any second.”
Fool. She loved your brother, never you. And now she’s found another. His legs moved under their own volition, back out the door. He fumbled at Mallory’s reins, untying them.
“Renin, what’s wrong?”
“I…I forgot something back at the farm. A fire, I left it burning in the hearth, so stupid.” He couldn’t look at her. Not when he mounted and not as he took his leave.
“Good bye,” he said, and the words had no sound to them.
She said something behind him, something about sending word that all was well.
She’s found herself another Themel, a man that would give her what she wanted. A brave man, an industrious man. Not someone like him. He could barely make out the path in what moonlight slipped through the tree branches, but he didn’t care. What mattered where he would end up? And he had darkness to accompany him.
It was mere moments after he left the cabin that a dark-furred mutt with white at his paws, trotted from the forest, a rabbit’s limp body hanging from his jaws.