Oliana entered the small hut at the edge of the village where Jarrah made his abode. It was sporting its characteristic scent that Oliana could never quite place. Jarrah sat at a small table, eating day-old bread. He gestured mid-crunch for her to take a seat on the other side.
“Well, well! What a pleasant surprise,” he swallowed. "What brings you here, my Lady Chieftain?” Oliana winced. As many times as she requested to be called by name, Jarrah always forgot.
“You wanted to speak with me. Remember? Those black riders came from Eirethstead.”
“Ah! Yes... Why were they here?”
“They asked to speak with me in private about ‘political matters.’ Jarrah, they’re… Eirethstead is taking the village! I have to surrender tomorrow or they’ll attack. They’re bringing an army. I have no choice.”
Jarrah paused a moment, his light eyes sparking with thought, and to Oliana’s relief, remembrance. “It is as I feared,” he said.
Oliana waited for him to reveal more options but quickly grew impatient. “What should I do, Jarrah? What can I do?”
“You know, your father used to know the king very well. They were friends, once. Indeed, you might say that Gillireth owes much of his rise to power to Zolan.”
“I had no idea. What else do you know of this?”
“Eh, something grew in the king, a dark hatred. Your father saw it and left the kingdom. Founded the clan. That’s all you really need to know right at this moment.”
“Oh, and he met your mother, of course. She was so young and beautiful. Can you remember, Oliana? She loved you and your brother very much.”
“Jarrah, please focus. How can I send the army back without a fight?”
“You cannot, dear. You will surrender to them and you will surrender to your fate.”
Silence filled the tiny shack, mingling with hopelessness and that mysterious smell.
“That’s it, then?” Oliana asked, crestfallen.
“That is not ‘it,’” Jarrah snapped. “You will find purpose no matter if you are chief or not. Do you think everyone in the village defines themselves by their title? A farmer, a seamstress? If you ask me, miss, actions of character are far greater than titles. Your father knew that very well.”
“And if I surrender, what does that make me as a person? Here’s an action for you! As my last act as chief, I remove you from your position as counsellor. Enjoy what is left of your life, you old turtle.”
Oliana rushed out of the hut, tears streaming. Jarrah shook his head in dismay. The stubborn must always learn the hard way, he thought.