Chapter 1.5 - 9 months later

It was nine months since the accident. Arran had survived, barely, but unable to remember anything from the last few days and his form so warped that he would be unable to work in the forge, or even to wield a weapon. His life had been ruined, his slow recovery not helping to inspire a job for him. He had killed himself shortly after, unable to cope with the change from a job that had huge possibilities, and which was one of the most respected jobs in the clan, to a life that would have consisted of beggary, unable to do much other than be ordered around, never rising to any status within the clan, and with no hope of a woman loving him. Solaris blamed himself heavily for this, although Cormac claimed that it had been due to the forge not having time to become familiar with him, speaking of the forge fire as if it was some living creature rather than simply a source of heat. It wasn’t true, Solaris knew. But he had gradually come to terms for it and decided to attempt to redeem himself for his actions. Of course, he now had other things on his mind. Meme was pregnant, and they had reason to believe that it was his child – although of course Meme hadn’t mentioned this to Kieran, who had turned out to be not so bad after all, and who also believed the baby was his. Despite the uncertainty, Solaris truly believed that when the babe was born, it would have his blue eyes, and his smile. So when the day came that Meme went into labour, he was more anticipant than most at the new arrival.

 

“Just breathe, Meme” Helena ordered “deep breaths. Trust me, they’ll help.” The young woman screamed again as another contraction pushed at her.  The healer was ready with her pre-made spells, woven into magical sheets called Cantrips, they glowed in eagerness to be used to staunch wounds. But she was not worrying yet, she had delivered worse than this in her time as the clan’s healer. Being a warring clan of Samata, the grey haired and wrinkled healer had done much in her time, sewing together the stomach of an old friend of hers who had been sliced by a Konerim sword was probably the most dire. Of those who she had the power to heal anyway. Often it was simply a case of putting the poor fool out of their misery, or soothing the pain that would soon take a life. Birthing was much easier a task, it was painful but it brought such joy into the world, and it was rare for there to be complications. Meme screamed again, clutching Kieran’s hand. The man was knelt by her side, whispering words of encouragement into her ear, his straw hair concealing the brown eyes that Helena knew would be filled with worry. “Shush child” she scolded, the screaming was giving her a headache, better to use a pain relieving Cantrip on the child than to be force to listen to the howling of the woman in labour before her. With a sigh, she began un-weaving one of the scrolls, directing the magic towards the woman’s womb. As the woman’s screaming reduced in volume and finally lessened to groans, Helena smiled, and bade Kieran leave the hut, for the next stage would probably be messy.

 

Solaris paced around the forge, distracted, oblivious both to Cormac’s look of amusement, and to his own inefficiency and clumsiness. This went on for half a day, his work sloppy and his inattention almost costing them good metal, before Cormac finally stopped him. “Something on your mind huh?” the old man snarled, his heat shrunken face displaying a hidden anger and rage while his eyes reflected the orange glow of the flames. “You are no good to me like this, boy. Go and do what you must do… But I want you back ready to tend the forge through the night, do you understand?” His face alight, Solaris simply nodded before running full pelt out of the door, almost tipping the bucket of water that was used for cooling near the anvil over and slipping slightly on the dirt as he sprinted through the streets towards the Healers’s hut. He paused slightly out of sight in order to regain his breath and calm his pounding heart. Pacing towards the hut, which seemed alight with different colours as the stone shone from the recent rain, a frown painted itself on his face. From within came raised voices, some angry; which he recognised as Kieran’s, and some pleading, at a higher pitch – Meme. His heart quickening, the door was flung out of his path and he stepped inside.

 

Meme was clutching two boys – twins – as she lay on the cot, Kieran’s stormy face looming above her, held back though he was by Helena.  “You mustn’t” The old woman was muttering, trying to still the rage that had risen within the man at the sight of the two newborns.  The Alente being who they are, and living so close to the imperials, they had a great fear of the ancient demonic race of the Tanoi, who were rumoured to have ruled over the land with an iron grip before the imperials came and liberated the land. The Tanoi were said to ride dragons, and to imbue their weapons with runes such that any who stood in their path would be smote down at the merest nick of the blade. Magicians of the highest order, some of the scariest fables about them, if they were to be believed, had them rising taller than any man, covered  in an unnatural blue glow when they so wished. And when they did not wish they would walk among their frightened subjects, seeking out fresh blood and any who plotted against them. So great was the fear of these mighty destroyers, recognisable only by the shapes that had formed on their skin, that a huge purge was begun, and any who were thought to be Tanoian were destroyed, whatever their age or creed. It was from this irrational fear that Kieran had grown up with that the life of one of the babes was at risk – for the eldest, born a couple of seconds ahead of his brother, had a great sword running from his left shoulder to the small of his back, shaded into his back in a silvery grey.

 

Neither woman had such a great fear of the Tanoi – if they had ever existed they certainly hadn’t for a long time, and that was good enough for them – such superstition shouldn’t cost a child its life, especially when it would struggle to survive being as small as it was, and when the clan hadn’t had a fresh birth in a while. It was during this struggle that Solaris entered, along with a bellowing blast of mid-winter air. At the shock of the air, the adults all froze and the babes began to cry, allowing Solaris time to take in the situation and restrain Kieran, who had broken free from Helena’s grasp. “What’s going on?” He demanded, patiently holding the older man, for although Kieran had a lot of muscle, which accounted for most of his bulky weight, he did not have the firm grip of a Blacksmith, nor the stamina of a man in his prime. At the conclusion of Helena’s tale of events, Solaris made a snap decision which would change his life forever. “Well if this scum” he shook the man he was holding, in case anyone had any doubts as to whom he was referring “will not take in the child due to his rather unfortunate birthmark, then I shall take him into my own house. The life of a blacksmith is not without benefits, and I promise that the boy shall not starve, nor shall he be left jobless, as the forge requires a new apprentice now that Cormac is getting old, and Arran is buried.” And with this bold statement, he released the Alente warrior, and stepped to the bedside of Meme. “What is his name?” He enquired, gently taking the babe from her arms. “Arnai” a confident Meme answered, who then turned to Kieran to present the other squealing and prune like child. “And this is Gregor” She stated, hoping to quench the fire in Kieran’s heart. He simply nodded uneasily, acknowledging the Alente name his son would have, no longer furious now the child would not be in his household, rather locked away in the forge.

 

And Solaris carried his eldest blood-child back to the forge, his eyes locked into the babe’s own crystal blue. “Arnai” he whispered, and the winter wind swirled, carrying the name upwards, towards the stars that glinted in the heavens, outshone by the white sun in a cloudless sky.

The End

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