Pictus wanted only one thing on this raid – a small girl child for Fringa. She lost her second, and lay broken in spirit and body in Boron. Pictus was not sure she would still be alive. He tired to be first in, scanning for life amid the carnage. On the last day, he saw Veiten slap some small thing, then raise his arm to stab.
“No!” bellowed Pictus, blocking the blow, sure that a small child was the source of Veiten’s ire. A tiny girl child, one eye amethyst the other obsidian looked up at him. Reaching for her, she stabbed his hand clean through with a small knife. Exactly the one, he thought, fluidly grabbing the girl child, scooping her few belongings, and up onto his horse. Veiten’s hand was bleeding – “She is a devil child, Pictus”, he spat. “Be wary what you are take home to Fringa for slave.”
But not for slave; Heleva was raised as their daughter. Fringa took the squirming filthy bundle from him when he returned home. She sang mother to daughter songs as she bathed the resisting child, spend days unknotting hair, sewing suitable clothing. But mostly she rocked Heleva to all the ancient tunes, soothing her, helping her to understand her new home, life, and mother. Fringa would whisper: “Remember your birth mother – she is always so; remember your 2nd mother, as she loves you so.”
Fringa, never strong, never well, died 10 years after Pictus snatched Heleva from death. She cried as one mourning a birth mother. Pictus mourned deep. He remembered his first sight of Fringa. Maidens from another village gathered for a wedding between villagers. Cloudy, snow-spitting day with Fringa, never strong, sitting as others stood. One shaft of light burst out of the clouds and highlighted her golden hair, and faery blue eyes. Pictus knew he must have her. And he did. But she lost their two sons, and fearing she might succumb to mother-fever, he brought her Heleva.
Within his culture, a widower must remarry within 4 cycles. Pictus had no desire to chose a second wife; Heleva kept house while he was with the raiding parties. But pressure, and rumour grew. Had he taken his strange daughter as his wife. Pictus knew he had but one choice – send Heleva off and chose a bride. He did not think his new wife would be tolerant of her presence, and he feared the other untrue rumours. Heleva was not a witch, nor cursed, nor evil. But strange and different. Dark where Pictus’ people were fair; small and fragile in appearance yet fierce and tempestuous. Pictus raised a girl with the survival skills of a boy.
So, on Wooers’ Moon, Fringa’s favourite, Pictus began to court a widow in his village. He had stood with her husband as the deadly arrow pierced his friend’s strong heart. A warrior laid to rest. A man Pictus respected. Lilthe was still beautiful and did quicken Pictus in heart and body. When seemed for sure they would consummate, he helped Heleva pack a pony cart with what she laughingly called “enough for a bride price, Father, enough for a bride price.”
There were clothes; a keg of the best ale’ dried fruits and venison. From the apiary, a jar of honey. He tied a goat to the back and put Ravenous cage on the seat. Heleva found the raven as a motherless fledgelet, and cared for it. Able to return to it’s wild existence, Ravenous chose to stay close to Heleva’s side. Pictus gave her the pouch Fringa put Heleva’s things into when she came to Boron. There was an amulet — too big for the tiny child of polished agate. The colours matched her amethyst and obsidian eyes, and seemed to tell a tale of a voyage. Pictus placed it around Heleva’s neck. It felt soft and familiar against her skin. Then her small dragger – she looked chagrinned at the puckered scar on Pictus hand, with agates set in the hilt. Fringa had almost thrown a dollish thing – a carved creature of some sort, away but Heleva became upset without it. So it stayed in the pouch with the other pieces of her birth right.
She had her weapons – knife, staff, and club. Hammer, her dog, would guard with her at night. Pictus did not worry as some would. Heleva could protect, scavenge, heal, care for herself and others. Pictus thought her special when she saved her, and even more so now. In leggings, broad shirt, and jerkin – she looked more boyish – good for disguise. In bodice and kiltern, she looked a bit like a boy in a dress, even with her cascade of raven hair. Despair not, Pictus said, one night, trying to be Fringa when he found her thus dressed and crying. You are a warrior woman, never let them make you feel any less. You possess a strong old soul, there will be some who shall see beyond the clothing, to the special maiden inside.
So when what Heleva called Fringa’s star was high in the sky, she set forth. Pictus advised either homeward, though that would be hard, or further north where they had recently established settlements. But Heleva already knew whence she went: east to the ocean, to voyage, to sail. She felt it in her blood. And she could hear Fringa’s soft voice singing songs of the sea as she rocked the misplaced child of infinite dreams. The amulet felt warm against her skin – it would guide her like the stars towards her destiny.
© taleweavering phylor/adh [adarkenedhouse]/my frilly freudian slip
Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, tale weaver, “Talisman” (Oct. 6, 2016)