Waterfalls, Rainbows and Secrets

JM Dragon

Part 7

© 2006 by J M Dragon

e-mail:  jmdragon


This story primarily features stories involving women. If it is illegal in the state, province, or country in which you live; or if you are under the age of 18, please find something else to read.

Language - Violence - Hurt/Comfort: 

There are elements of strong language, violence,  physical and/or mental, as well as emotional hurt and discomfort in this story.

The events portrayed in this story are fictional and any resemblance to actual events and/or people is purely coincidental. 

Jennifer glanced around the supposedly new area their guide Larsen had taken them. In one way, she was annoyed that they had been split from Richard, but grateful in another. This means we can leisurely explore and the only person we’ll irritate is the keeper. That thought brought a smile to her lips.

Carolyn turned to Jennifer to explain another new finding and smiled in response. “Hey there, what are you smiling at?”

Jennifer shrugged and gave her friend an even broader smile. “If I told you, I might be put in irons by the big fellow over there.” Jennifer lifted her chin towards Larsen who was leaning disinterested against a great oak. It was about the only thing on the terrain that didn’t look insipid next to the warrior.

Carolyn glanced in the direction of Jennifer’s gaze and returned her smile. “You have got to give him a little slack he hasn’t bothered us.”

“True, but he hasn’t taken us anywhere near to the city walls. It makes me wonder what they are hiding.”

Laughing at the remark, Carolyn placed a friendly hand on Jennifer’s shoulder. “You’ll end up as paranoid as Richard if you carry on with that train of thought. I’m just glad that they haven’t thrown us out yet. You know Jennifer, I might not be able to verify my findings, but I’d stake my reputation that all this is genuine. What I wouldn’t give to spend a research grant exploring this place for the university.”

Jennifer felt Carolyn’s hand on her shoulder and all her misgivings disappeared. She is so sure how can I believe any other? “Do you think we’ll be invited any place for lunch? I’m starving.”

When Carolyn burst out laughing, she attracted the attention of Larsen who with a cold enquiring gaze moved closer. “Finish here?” he said brusquely.

Jennifer looked at Carolyn and wrinkled her nose in amusement. Is that a statement or a question,hmm perplexing? “We are finished. Is it time for lunch?” Carolyn said with deliberately slow enunciation.

With a heavy frown, he gave them a concentrated yet vacant stare.

“Don’t think he understands. I guess we need to explain better.” Jennifer raised her eyebrows. “I hope this does the trick.” She proceeded to place a hand over her stomach, open her mouth wide then close it and pretend to chew.

With what could only be a comical expression, the warrior stared at Jennifer. Carolyn watched the changing expressions on the man’s face and saw what she thought was a faint smile cross his lips. I’m not certain but I don’t think fierce warriors are supposed to smile.

Larsen’s eyes sparkled as he nodded and pulled out a small loaf of bread from a pouch. He split it into three portions, gave each of the women a piece then swallowed his in one mouthful before grunting.

Jennifer grinned at the warrior. “Thank you,” she whispered before consuming her bread with gusto.

Carolyn on the other hand, was more cautious and sniffed at the bread before she sank her teeth into the piece. Yum, I can’t believe how fresh and tasty this is.

Suddenly, Keeper Larsen began speaking quickly and the only word they understood was Berdlukare. Carolyn berated herself, I’ve had a day here at least I should understand the basic vowels and make a sentence out of the jumbled words. She wished she had more time to understand the language for she wasn’t sure if the mention of the warrior’s name was a good thing or bad. No doubt, we’re going to find out.

+ + +

Richard had spent three hours talking avidly with Mark who asked about events happening in the outside world. For the first hour, Richard had obliged to a point expecting he would eventually trap the man into admitting this was all a sham. I’m sure he knows exactly what is going on and I will catch him in the lie. When Mark seemingly soaked up every single word with delight, Richard began to doubt his theory. Finally, he said, “When did you arrive here Mark?” He eyed the man critically. “What exactly is going on here?”

“For many years I searched for this place and when I finally found it I never wanted to leave.” Mark smiled at the memory of his arrival. “I understand why you would wonder if this place is legitimate - I can assure you that it is. These are a proud people who fiercely defend their land and their way of life.”

Richard listened intently to Mark’s words and speculated whether the old woman’s protestation that they could freely leave was indeed true. His eyes traveled to the two warriors guarding the gate before they rested on the one named Berdlukare. The massive woman stood completely still with her powerful arms folded across an muscular chest.

Mark stared at the young man who had a serious expression on his face. He looks terrified. He glanced in the direction of Richard’s stare and immediately knew why –Berdlukare. The woman, named after a traditional hero in the Old Norse homelands, headed the elite of all the warriors and followed royal orders with perfect execution. Even Haklang, the leader of all warriors, preferred to discuss issues with her. No one wants to make enemies of a warrior of Berdlukare’s standing. Her Berserkers are the equivalent of a Special Forces unit. Mark heard hearsay that the Queen offered Berdlukare the position of leader of the assembly of warriors but the woman declined - she was a protector not a politician. I’m certain she could command all the warriors to do battle for her and they would follow her without question. Hjort told him that the current situation occurred because of the warrior’s opinion about the strangers. I wonder if she’s regretting her stance. I guess I’ll find out for myself if the newcomers live up to Berdlukare’s praise.

Mark looked through the sack Berdlukare had brought and retrieved food and a flagon of mead. He offered the younger man a chunk of bread and a portion of goat’s cheese. “Here Richard take this you must be hungry.”

Richard glanced in the direction of the older man and took the offered food. “Thanks.” Richard took a bite of the cheese and bread then spoke again. “If you had wanted to leave would it have been as simple as them pushing you back through the cave and waving a friendly farewell?”

Mark pondered the question as he sat down next to Richard. What do I tell him? I’ve never considered leaving this place. It has been in my blood and life for as long as I can recall. “My friend if you want to leave I’m sure there wouldn’t be a problem. I’ve never wanted to leave.” He doesn’t need to know that only one man that ever left did so under a veil of secrecy.

Sounds like a stock answer to me Richard thought as he shrugged. “I guess we’ll know soon enough won’t we.”

Mark steered the conversation to another topic. “I briefly met one of the young ladies you travel with…she was very friendly.”

Richard let out a snort of laughter and Berdlukare, from her position at the gate, stared at him intently. “Well I guess Carolyn has been called many things. Sure she’s friendly, she’s my best friend actually…at least that was until.”

“Until,” Mark asked. I wonder if the other woman in the party has anything to do with the change.

A brilliant smile lit up Richard’s face and Mark noticed the tenderness in the younger man’s eyes. Ah, I remember that look. I think I had the same expression when I met the girl who became my wife.

“She’s my best buddy. Although I’ve met someone else recently who’s going to be my wife very soon.”

Mark grinned, “I’m sure that your friend will understand.” Mark paused then said, “What about the other young lady in your party?”

“Oh she’s real nice. Actually, it is because of her that Carolyn and I are here. She came up with the ridiculous notion that this place was here and foolishly, as far as I’m concerned, convinced Carolyn to go along for the trip. Believe me I’m amazed my academic friend bought into the notion. I didn’t want them to go alone.”

Mark smiled slightly. “Ah, without a man you mean. Is that macho war still raging between the sexes? ”

Richard’s face reddened. I hate to admit, it but that is the main reason I came along...well that and Carolyn’s recuperation. “Yes. However, I can clearly see here that isn’t an issue.” Quietly Richard mused, “Maybe I can learn something from this place after all.”

Mark, fascinated by the man’s comments thought, as far as I know few have the knowledge that this place exists. “You say your other companion was the instigator of this expedition?” I stumbled across that old bookstore and the book by accident. “How did she convince your friend?” He has clearly indicated that they sought this place out on purpose. Perhaps Hjort isn’t far from the truth in thinking that their secret is in the open. The thought startled Mark. This gives a completely new bearing to my opinion. What will the council think of what I have to tell them at the meeting tomorrow?

Richard rummaged around in his rucksack and produced a map. “Here,” he said as he handed Mark the map. “You can see how the entrance point was plotted. Richard shook his head and smiled. “Even then, it was touch and go. If the rainbow hadn’t come along when it did we were about to pack up and leave.” I wish we did.

Mark narrowed his eyes as he saw the condition of the map. “Who folded this?” he asked before consulting it further. He saw the line that indicated where they had set off and which approach they had taken. This looks vaguely familiar, it almost looks like my theories on paper but that can’t be I never left anything behind. “A very astute woman is in our midst it would appear. How many more people know of this route?”

Richard was about to say ‘no one’, but changed his mind. This man appears to be friendly but it might be a ruse. I can’t take that chance. He took a deep breath. “No one, but if we don’t arrive home by a certain time a copy of the map will find its way to the appropriate authorities and a search will begin. Eventually they will find us.”

Mark said, “I see. How do you know the authorities will seek you out?”

Richard seriously replied, “We have a secret weapon. Carolyn’s folks are government bigwigs. Trust me, people like that are never overlooked.” It is true! No way will Carolyn’s parents not try to find her.

“How long before the authorities begin to search this location?” Mark asked slowly. This could prove Hjort right and no one wanted that least of all our Queen.

Richard hesitated at the question, damn what do I say now? “Oh we’re due back in a couple of days, after that it won’t be long I guess.” He crossed his fingers mentally at his blatant lie.

Mark peered at the man suspiciously, is he telling the truth. He saw the slight shift of the man’s eyes and knew the answer. Now, I need to speak with someone who has an open mind and not following an agenda. I wonder who that could be.

At that moment, Berdlukare approached them and crooked her head in the direction of the valley before speaking to Mark. Richard, of course, understood nothing but could tell by the warrior’s body language that whatever she was saying it was serious.

Mark turned his attention back to Richard and tugged at his arm. “It is time for you to leave and return to the hut,” the older man said urgently.

Richard noted the alarm in the older man’s voice. Something is wrong. “What’s going on? Will my friends be there?”

The old man ignored the first question and mumbled, “I hope so.” He grabbed Richard’s arm and directed him away from the gate back towards their hut.

Richard defiantly shook his arm loose. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what is happening and where my friends are!”

“Just keep moving,” Mark commanded. “I will tell you everything later right now we need to get out of here!”

The urgency in the man’s voice had Richard wanting to run back to the hut to ensure that his friend’s were there and safe. “Come on then, there’s no time to waste.”

Berdlukare quickly walked towards the two warriors at the gate. “You must both be at the ready for anything. You are our best and I am counting on you to keep this gate safe.” The two guards bristled with pride and took a markedly defensive stance.

From a crevice in the wall, Berdlukare drew out a gigantic horn and with little effort blew into it filling the area with a melody. She turned back to the keepers. “Defend the gate with your lives as true warriors of Odin.” She replaced the horn and with speed, quickly caught up with Richard and Mark taking a position in front of them as they headed back to the distant hut.

+ + +

Keeper Larsen unceremoniously plucked Carolyn and Jennifer from the field and threw them into the hollow of the nearest tree before placing a finger over his lips. Carolyn asked in a whisper, “What the hell is this all about?” and received a scathing glare from the huge man. Both women then clamped their lips closed and watched as the keeper climbed up the enormous oak and hid between the dense, deep green foliage.

As the seconds ticked by, Carolyn and Jennifer’s annoyance and shock at the rough treatment grew exponentially. Then, they heard the thundering of horse’s hooves trampling over the ground where they had been eating lunch only moments earlier. All the two could see was a cloud of dust that had them gasping for breath. They desperately tried to abide by Larsen’s admonition to be silence, but they found it to be practically impossible. Nevertheless, they staved off their coughs until the riders and their steeds continued towards the valley. Once, what they thought was a posse of at least one hundred horses passed over the ridge, Larsen jumped lithely down from the tree.

Carolyn, followed closely by Jennifer, heaved herself from the hollow of the tree. “Are you going to tell us what’s going on here!” she demanded

Larsen stood as a rock with his arms crossed as if waiting for something more to happen. At first, the giant warrior appeared not to hear them but turned slowly with an unexpected expression on his face – surprise.

How the hell can you surprise a person like him? Carolyn wondered. “Well, are you going to answer me or not!”

Jennifer didn’t wait for explanations and started walking towards the ridge but immediately felt Larsen’s vice-like grip wrapped around her forearm and roughly haul her back. The words he spoke were un-intelligible but they understood the ominous tone of them. The large man shook his head and when he spoke again there was no doubt as to the meaning of his words. “Leave now.”

Angry and disgusted by the turn of events, the women snatched up their possessions and kicked the dirt as they fell in behind the warrior. Carolyn saw the warrior turn to them with a look of frustration on his face. I’ve seen that look in my student’s eyes time and again - he doesn’t want to be with us he wants to be elsewhere.

Jennifer turned to Carolyn. “Do you think we’ll ever get to know exactly what that was all about?”

With a shrug, Carolyn scowled at the warrior’s back. She was seething with antipathy towards the man and with disillusionment in herself for not understanding the language. For the first time in my life, I feel like a failure.

“Where will you start,” Jennifer asked with a note of caution.

Carolyn distractedly replied, “Where else but with Berdlukare!”

+ + +

Sigurd Hjort, presiding over a meeting of councillors, peered towards the mountain ranges with a satisfied expression. Now my master plan will be in full swing and everyone will blame the strangers for the incursion. The dissension in Haklang has helped me enormously by pushing my plan forward by months. Who will care about the strangers once my army begins doing what is merely traditional and quite respectable for a true Norse of my bloodline. A pleased smile crossed his face. First, they will rampage through the small villages scattered around the town and then they will attack main town itself. Any moment now, my warriors will have secured the gate and once that happens, I will allow no one to enter my homeland again.

In his opinion, the kingdom had been without hope for they could not rely on the strength of their leader. Ever since the Queen lost her senses to that stranger Clements the people perceived her as weak - that is unacceptable. She has denied the people the right of an heir with her pathetic belief that the man would return to her one day. Now she has grown old, frail and, in my view, dim-witted, particularly with regard to interlopers into our realm.

Although his thoughts were definitely elsewhere, he listened half-heartedly to one of the younger councillors talking about farm matters. Now is the time to strike! She was wavering in her judgment when she should have been strong and absolute. There can be no room for changes of mind or pandering to the masses. No, to keep the faith of our ancestors and Odin’s wishes, the ruler has to be all-powerful and the only voice that counts. He nodded as if he were intent on the younger man’s words. I will see to it that the weak council the Queen has inflicted on us will end. Then the true traditional council will arise from its ashes as in the old ways and I will rule with the might of my own army. If the assembly of warriors disagrees, I shall send them on their way to their ancestors on a flotilla of mass fire.

Once the young councillor finished his speech and another person began to rattle on about the shop merchants and their extortionate charges. Hjort glanced again at the mountains and felt an increase of adrenaline flow through his body. Soon very soon now, a call will come from the horn at the gate. This time it will not be strangers entering our land but true believers - those loyal to me and me alone. Berdlukare will rue the day she allowed dissenting berserkers to live. A feral look glinted in his eyes as he thought of his army. Those very outcasts, doomed to walk in the shadows without Odin’s hand to guide them, now comprise the bulk of my army. It had been so easy and except for a small handful, no one suspected - he ensured that those who suspected never had the opportunity to tell. All I need now is for the warriors to take up the sword and a battle that I’m sure to win will ensue. He had been secretly training an army that did not play nursemaid to strangers or pretend to defend the Queen from a threat that hadn’t occurred in years.

Yes, very soon now Xanadis will be mine.

+ + +

“It is the Queen’s own doing. She has allowed her council too much voice,” Hakon Grjotgardson said. He was one of the few members of the council of elders that had not dismissed Mercie straight away.

“It is time that we stop listening to Hjort’s views and accept what our Queen wants without question.” Mercie attempted to persuade the man along with the other elders to side with the Queen. Hakon has listened intently and nodded in all the right places but that apparently my argument isn’t enough.

“It is not for me to question our Sovereign’s decisions. I will follow them to the letter as it must be,” Hakon simply stated.

“But, what about the others? Can she depend on their support?”

“Again that is not for me to say Lady Fulla. You must speak with them for your answer. Now, if you will excuse me I have urgent business to attend to.”

Mercie contemplated what to do as she sat in a corner of the small library. She was sorely tempted to explain to the Queen that only the sovereign of the land could solve the situation. It was the Queen’s duty to denounce the council as it was. She sighed for she knew she would not do that for it would be disloyal to her Queen. I will never be that.

Her hands trailed over the leather bound book in her hand. About three hundred years earlier they added the library to the royal house, which housed all manner of texts that strangers who had arrived over the years brought with them. Her favourite novel, ‘Legends of the Lost’ was a collection of several short stories about various aspects of being lost and, in some stories, finding a way back. Stories of lost love, careers, personal tragedy, and the strength needed to overcome each situation…just my kind of book but of little help to me now.

The creaking of the door had her head spinning towards the noise and the person entering the quiet domain. She stood quickly and bowed slightly as Queen Ragnhild entered and smiled warmly.

“My Queen do you wish me to leave?” Mercie asked.

Ragnhild waved her frail hand in a negative fashion motioning for Mercie to sit along side her. Old eyes, tired with age bore deep into Mercie’s youthful intelligence ones. Mercie is very like me in many ways except my path was set. Not so with my favourite for she has time on her hands to make her life far happier than mine. “You have been actively seeking out many of my council of elders, why is that Mercie?”

Mercie felt her cheeks colour at the words. I can’t lie in any way about my intentions…she will know immediately. Although their bond was close, Mercie knew her place, as did the Queen. “My Queen, I was merely trying to ascertain how the other elders saw the strangers in our midst. I apologise if I have over stepped my position and will immediately admit this publicly if that is your wish.”

Time was particularly kind to the Queen for she still looked remarkably beautiful for her age. A slight frown on the creased face of the Queen as she spoke, “That is not necessary. You must however, resist the temptation you have for involving yourself so deeply with matters that you cannot properly understand.” The aged head shook. “How will we find a suitable match for you if a suitor regards you as too inquisitive?”

Again Mercie flushed at the Queen’s words. Why does she want to marry me off to any noble born she thinks suitable. The last one had been a total disaster...


Thorkel Amundason was the eldest son of one of the first families. His descendents arrived in the lead ship that had brought them to the special place they now called home. The leader of the warriors that protected their first King was his direct ancestor and all assumed that he would eventually hold that position. Under the tutelage of Berdlukare, he became a member of the Berserkers and began honing his warrior skills.

By the direction of the Queen, Mercie began a liaison with him although she knew from the start it wouldn’t work. Thorkel, by all estimates, was handsome and charming and many considered him quite the catch. Behind the attraction, Mercie found him to be nothing more than a self-important, cruel and ill tempered man. She heard stories of how he would laugh as he ran his horse through the countryside his only purpose to knock over labourers working the land. The gossip was that in some cases he would carelessly use his sword causing serious injury to any unfortunate in his way.

When the relationship began, Mercie tried to keep an open mind for her Queen ignoring her own desires. When she saw Thorkel in an altercation with Berdlukare in what appeared to be a fight for power, her whole concept of what she wanted in life changed. In fascination she watched as some of the Berserkers obviously supported the usurper, but most remained silent as they watched their commander take on the minion - there was no competition. For her part, Mercie watched enthralled as Berdlukare, with the strength of ten horses and the knowledge of centuries of warrior ways under her belt, easily defeated the man. I t was then that Mercie’s life transformed as light brown eyes caught her watching and for a few seconds both women held the other in a trance that only they shared

Berdlukare rolled off the man and snarled something even Mercie could not understand and walked away without looking back. In that moment, Thorkel saw his chance, removed his knife from his belt and threw it at the warrior’s back. Mercie had never seen reflexes and senses as honed as Berdlukare’s for the warrior turned and blocked the oncoming knife with one swift motion. It was then that several warriors grabbed the screaming Thorkel and lead him away. The man would have to face the justice of the assembly of warriors before the Queen issued the final decision for his punishment.

Thorkel’s family asked for and the Queen granted clemency banishing the young man to the unexplored fringes of the territory. Had the warriors, and in particular the Berserkers, had their way death would have been Thorkel’s punishment. The Queen mandated that he could never come back to Xanadis in her lifetime and reminded the man that it was Berdlukare’s right under their laws, to have the option of taking revenge for the crime against her.


Fortunately that was three years ago and the Queen hasn’t been matchmaking since. “One day I will find the right suitor my Queen for it is only a matter of time.” Mercie knew that she had already found the one person she felt bonded to her heart. How do I tell the Queen that the leader of her Berserkers, who just happened to be a woman, is the one for me? Inwardly she chuckled. Although explaining that to the Queen would be far easier than actually attempting to speak with Berdlukare about a relationship. At least that is my perception the Berserker is so… so unapproachable, I wonder i…. She sighed for she had hoped that her brother who Berdlukare was directly training would be of some help – he wasn’t.

“That is true for you Mercie. You must remember that my time is almost over and I would dearly love to see you settled. However, that is for another time, now we must speak of the strangers…”

Just then, both women turned their attention to the sound of the horn bellowing from the gateway. The melodic sound echoed throughout the royal house as well as in the most remote parts of the realm.

Queen Ragnhild listened to the sound and reflectively announced, “I suppose that must mean more strangers entering our land, this is not good Mercie.” Her mind so engrossed with the strangers she had failed to hear that the message that bellowed from the horn. The frail woman stood and slowly made her way to the door but stopped and turned to her favourite and smiled briefly. “Mercie, locate the other strangers and see what they know of this. I will speak with Thorleif for he will as always provide wise council.”

Once the Queen left the room, Mercie rushed to her own quarters and collected her outerwear. Perhaps I need to take this path to find out what the strangers are like. As she hurried along, she heard the crescendo of horses galloping in the courtyard and saw the Berserkers in full flight speed out of the town gates.

What is happening?

+ + +

From childhood, Edmond Fulla’s deepest desire was to become a warrior. At age ten, when his parents died he feared his dream would only be that. Had it not been for Queen Ragnhild’s taking him and his two year old sister under her wing he would not have become a keeper of the gate. Under the Queen’s protection, he trained with the guards until Berdlukare became leader of the Berserkers. Miraculously the warrior undertook his initiation into the warrior hood personally.

Although he would never presume to be a friend of the warrior woman he did think she liked him in some corner of her heart. He did feel however, that she made him work harder and practise more than any other warrior under her command - he felt it an honour. After a time, he grew tired of all the extra time spent training and confronted Berdlukare. “Why do you not allow me guard the gate?”

Berdlukare, her usual silent self on such matters, only shook her head. Then gave him a cold glance that shook him to the core before she strode away in what appeared to be disgust at his question.

I don’t think I should have questioned her. I’ve probably made things worse. Edmond thought as he reluctantly accepted that the warrior would decide when she saw fit. He waited for what he considered an inordinately long time for his turn to come. Then, unexpectedly Berdlukare gave him his ideal assignment - guarding the gate that kept the unwanted out of their lands. Excluding the personal guard for the Queen, it was the most prestigious of duties. One day I will be in the Queen’s guard too but for now, the title of keeper will be mine for the rest of my life. He was where he wanted to be and with the strangers in their land, it was an especially important position. I can’t wait to tell Mercie. He stood proudly along side Keeper Eriksson at the ready to defend their land against intruders. No one will pass by us. We are Berdlukare’s elite of the Berserkers and it will take a well trained army to force us relinquish this gate.

The sound of the increasing crescendo of horses rumbling towards the gate had Berdlukare’s earlier words ringing in his ears. Defend the gate with your lives as true warriors of Odin. In that moment, both the keepers knew that this was what they had spent their life training. They gave each other a clenched fist and waited in fierce pride for the destiny that awaited them. Echoing footsteps entering the chamber, greeted the two keepers. They turned to each other and with a clenched fist waited in fierce pride for the destiny that awaited them.

+ + +

When Richard and Mark unceremoniously arrived at the hut, Berdlukare, with a hostile flare in her eyes, gave Mark instructions. The warrior’s eyes traveled to the approaching figures on the hillside and with several guttural words marched towards the arriving entourage.

Richard mystified at what was happening asked, “What did she say?” I hope it isn’t something the girls or me did. He thought about that for a moment. Nah, I’m pretty sure it isn’t anything we’ve done.

Mark softly muttered, “Wish I knew,” before glancing up at the taller young man. “Nothing to worry about,” he replied. “There appears to be a small internal problem. Berdlukare will deal with it and then we can proceed.”

Richard wasn’t buying the man’s forced cheerful tone. “You can’t say a thing like that and think I’m buying into everything is okay. The expression on your pal’s face says this isn’t a small problem!” Even I can work out that much. His thoughts turned to his friends. “What about the girls?” I’m worried about them.

Mark frowned then he looked towards the hillside. “Don’t worry,” he said while nodding towards the approaching figures. “It looks like your friends are on their way back. Everything is going to be fine.”

Richard looked in the direction of Berdlukare’s travel and saw his friends and the warrior called Larsen. Carolyn seemed to suddenly rush towards the female warrior and take a stance of anger. I know that move. I’ve seen her in action many times over the years. He inwardly laughed. Wish I was there…Carolyn may have met her match. From his vantage point, Richard saw Jenn hanging back with her fists clenched and body tense. Jenn looks ready for action as well. Hmm, I wonder what went on in their tour. “I’ll wait until they are here in one piece before I make that judgment call,” he finally voiced to the old man.

Mark Finch continued to watch the four figures in the distance. His eyes weren’t as good as they used to be so he was unable to make out their features but though that one was the woman he met earlier. He smiled as watched her go toe to toe with Berdlukare. I wonder if they’re conversing. He chuckled. I have yet to meet anyone who has admitted to ever having what one could consider a meaningful conversation with that warrior.

Within a few short minutes, Keeper Larsen was shepherding the two women back down the hill towards the hut. Berdlukare, on the other hand, remained rooted to the position with her gaze transfixed on the walls of the town. It wasn’t long before the black riders of the Berserkers galloped into view with a golden stallion in tow. Berdlukare mounted the beautiful beast in one fluid movement and the riders proceeded with speed towards the gate.

Mark shook his head and narrowed his eyes he had never seen the Berserkers leave the city en masse. There’s never been anything more negative than the odd disturbance committed by an individual. He shuddered as a long forgotten memory invaded his mind. This reminds me of the day I watched my father left for the war. I never saw him again. So many poor souls lost their lives in that war because of a mad man who felt it was his destiny to rule the world. Although he found the society he now lived in to be antiquated in many ways, he had relished the challenge of learning new ways at his age. He particularly enjoyed the aspect of limited crime and the zero tolerance that brought with it. He had learned there was a fixed penalty for each crime committed at each rank within the society and those hadn’t changed with the influence of outsiders. The sovereign was the only one who could change the laws and over all the centuries, none had. There were instances of clemency but that was only after agreement of the injured party or their kin. Right now, I’d love that coffee the woman named Carolyn offered me earlier. “Richard if I set up the fire, any chance of a cup of coffee? I haven’t tasted coffee in almost two decades.”

Thankful for something else to take his mind off getting out of there, Richard grinned good naturedly, “Sure. I’m willing to bet the girls will need some too.” They turned and entered the hut just as Carolyn, Jenn and Larsen came into a recognisable distance.

Carolyn’s face, etched by her intense deliberations with both warriors, was not happy. All I know with any certainty is that whatever is going on is serious. Particularly, since Berdlukare went with those riders. They even brought her a horse – how did they know?

For her part, Jennifer had been quiet during the short walk back. She had allowed her eyes to follow the dust from the horse’s hooves until it disappeared over the crest of the hill. She wanted to follow but her arm still was smarting from Keeper Larsen’s earlier grip when she tried to wander off.

Keeper Larsen felt dismay for having to stay behind. I should be alongside them defending our people! I’m not a nursemaid!

“Jennifer, you’ve gone very quiet. Are you okay? ” Carolyn tentatively asked.

Jennifer shrugged, as they approached the hut and her eyes once again strayed to the crest of the hill. “Oh I was just wondering what was going on. Looks kind of serious to me. What do you think?”

Carolyn pondered how to answer for a few seconds then placed a hand on Jennifer’s shoulder. “I think you’re right. At least we know one thing, we are not to blame.”

Jennifer felt the warmth of the hand on her shoulder and once more a message of safety filled her. I don’t know why I feel this way. The only real way Carolyn can protect me is with her intelligence but for some reason I feel safe with her by my side. With a tentative smile she said, “Yes it is.” She pointed to the hut. “It looks like Richard is inside and lighting a fire.” She gently touched Carolyn’s arm. “Why don’t you go check on him…I’ll be along in a minute I want to ask Larsen a question.” She saw Carolyn’s eyebrow arch. “Yes, I’ll be perfectly okay.”

“Hmm, if you need me I’ll be right there…you only have to call out my name.” Reluctantly Carolyn entered the hut. Inside a ridiculous smile traveled over her lips as she imagined Jennifer speaking or perhaps miming to the warrior. Incredible.

“Where’s your friend,” Mark asked.

“Oh, she is going to try to speak with Larsen,” Carolyn said with a chuckle.

“That could be difficult,” he said with a shake of his head. “I’d better go and see if I can offer her any assistance.” Mark walked out the door towards Larsen who was standing between himself and the girl.

+ + +

Jennifer watched the warrior, whose eyes focused on the crest of the hill, for a few moments. She guessed by his impatient expression that he wanted to be elsewhere. “Larsen?”

The warrior heard his name and turned to the small woman. Over the time he spent with the strangers he was impressed with them although he had yet to see why Berdlukare had given them the name she had. They hold no threat to my Queen or the community. I will agree with the Queen’s comment and the women at least should stay if that was what they want. He had not mastered the English language as well as some and he struggled to say the woman’s name I shall use the name Berdlukare gave her, “Mgni?”

Jennifer frowned for she didn’t know what he said, but she was certain she heard the word before. Maybe it is a greeting or something. “Larsen, do you want to leave?” She pointed her finger in the direction of the hill and his comrades.

Larsen frowned as he held his hands up in a gesture she knew all too well - he doesn’t understand me. Sighing heavily and she was about to rejoin the others when she heard a male voice behind her speaking to the warrior in the native tongue. That’s not Richard’s voice who can it be? Jennifer watched as Larsen responded immediately then she turned to see who was who was attempting to help her out. Her heart rate sped up, her breathing became laboured and she felt her knees grow weak as she hit the dirt in an uncharacteristic faint. The last thing she said were the strangled words, “Poppy is that you?”

To be continued...

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