by Alyssa D. , Grade 8, Tomslake, BC CANADA
Eoin stared dreamily into the dying flames of the campfire. Everyone else but Audric and one of the other man, who were now in deep discussion by one of the tents, had gone home or to sleep, but she stayed by the fire, thinking of the past weeks events. She and Audric had convinced her people that Audric and his people were really the natives of the land and that there were others who were the real marauders. Since then, Audric had been preparing to drive the marauders out of Corstan. As she sat there, she suddenly heard the quiet approach of someone behind her. She turned to see Audric standing there, smiling.
“What were you talking about?” she asked, returning the smile.
Audric shrugged and sat down beside her. “The attack we’re planning,” he said, staring into the flames.
Eoin nodded and glanced up at him. His shoulder length black hair was pulled back into a half up, which Eoin had come to not notice anymore, and his face wore the expression of deep thought. She smiled softly and then turned her head away, thinking of how much he reminded her of her father. But as she thought about it more, there was something else that drew her to him. She did not know what it was, but she decided to leave it at that… for now.
“When is the attack to take place?” she asked, breaking the silence.
Audric shook himself as if just waking up from a dream. “Sorry. What did you say?”
Eoin laughed. “When is the attack to take place?” she repeated.
“A week,” he said, but his mind was obviously somewhere else by the tone in which he said it.
Eoin stared at him for a moment, wondering why he was so distracted, but then turned away and resumed her stare at the fire. It was probably their plans that he was thinking about. But still, she could not help think that perhaps it was something else.
A week later, Eoin stood in the door of their tent, watching Keshler get ready for the attack, for it had been decided that Eoin’s people and Audric’s people would go together to drive the marauders out of Corstan.
“What’s wrong, Sister?” he asked, noting the worried expression she wore.
She shrugged her shoulders and let out a sigh. “I’m just scared.”
Keshler smiled. “I’ll be okay. We’ll succeed, you can be sure of that.”
Eoin nodded sadly, thinking of what would happen if someone she loved died. ‘What if Audric or Keshler dies?’ she thought. She stepped forward and gave Keshler and quick hug, saying in his ear, “Don’t die.” With that she turned and hurried away, tears springing to her eyes. Gathering Rowan’s reigns (he had gone back to camp when she was captured by the marauders), she swung into the saddle and rode into the forest. She stopped in a small clearing and slid from the saddle and onto the ground. Her thoughts then turned to Audric and what would happen to his people if he died. Tears began running down her cheeks as she thought about it. The truth was that she had grown fond of him and didn’t know what she would do without him. But her greatest worry was that of Keshler. She knew that he would be an archer and this caused him to have a less chance of getting injured, but he had never really been in battle before and it scared her to think that he might get hurt.
The thunder of hooves reached her ears and Audric soon burst into the clearing. “Ah, there you are. I was-” but he stopped midsentence when he saw her red eyes. “What’s wrong?”
Eoin shook her head and wiped away her tears. “It’s nothing.”
Audric rolled his eyes and waited.
“What if someone gets hurt?” she sobbed.
Audric’s smile slowly melted away, replaced with a look of sympathy. “Eoin, I promise I will take as good care of Keshler as I can.”
“But- what if you get hurt?!” she cried, jumping to her feet and pacing nervously.
Audric stared at her for a moment, completely taken aback at her question. ‘She cares for me that much?’ he wondered. He looked into her eyes, searching them to see if it was just genuine sympathy, or that she actually cared for him. “I’ll be alright,” he finally said.
She shook her head, tears once again streaming down her face. “You can’t say that,” she said sadly. She shot him a quick smile and then mounted Rowan. “See you later,” she said and then rode away through the trees.
Audric stood there, looking in the direction she had gone. Something tugged on his mind, whispering something he could not quite hear. He shook himself and mounted Kobalt, but as he rode back to his fortress, he found himself thinking about her.
Eoin paced along the edge of the camp, her head bowed and her eyes closed, holding her breath. The men had left silently for Audric’s fortress about an hour ago. She and the other women of the camp had spent most of that time preparing for the men’s return, and now there was nothing to do but wait. Suddenly Kadriel, the woman she’d met on the road from their kingdom to Corstan, came to stand beside her. They stood there in companionable silence until Eoin spoke.
“When do you think it’ll be over?” she asked, her voice shaky.
“I don’t know, but we will wait until they return.”
Eoin stood still for a moment before she started pacing again. She was glad that they would be coming to the camp instead of Audric’s fortress first because the camp was closer to where they were planning to attack, but nothing could lessen the waiting before that. She thought of Keshler fighting there with the others. Would he be okay? And Audric! What if he died? She shook her head and sighed. Such thoughts would not help her one bit. She turned back to the campfire and sat down on a log, gazing at the dead coals.
It was an hour later when the first man flew into the camp, red faced yelping with… delight? Eoin was somewhat shocked, though she didn’t know why because everyone knew that they would win, as she listened to the man give the news. Finally, she burst into action and pushed her way into the crowd, desperate to know if anyone had been injured. But she was not able to ask the man before the rest of the men arrived and she was pushed away. After a minute of pushing and lots of shouting, she finally spotted Keshler searching the crowd.
“Kesh!” she screamed, rushing toward him. Throwing her arms around his neck, she whispered into his ear, “Thanks for not getting hurt,” she whispered.
Keshler laughed and returned his sister’s fierce embrace. “I told you I wouldn’t get hurt.”
They then heard the whole thing. They’d killed many of the marauders and the rest had fled, sure to never come back or cause trouble. Corstan was saved. But there was still something nagging in her mind. Where was Audric? She asked one of the men, and he said that Audric would be coming a bit after the rest of them. So, she waited until finally she saw him. And in that moment, her stomach flipped within her. She loved him. But there was only one thing that held her back. Did he feel the same way about her?
“Audric?” she finally gasped, running toward him.
“Eoin!” he cried, grinning.
“I thought for sure you would at least get hurt or something. Oh, I’m so glad your okay!” she cried, resisting the urge to hug him.
Audric laughed and shook his head. “Nope!”
Eoin smiled, joy beyond words bubbling up inside her.
That night they held a celebration over the defeat and there was much revelry. The women cooked great pots of food and roast meat and after it began to get dark and the fire was lit, the ale was brought out. But Eoin did not participate in it much. She spent most of the evening sitting, just feeling happy, and most of all, watching Audric. After a while Audric noticed her sitting alone and watching the rest. He walked up and sat down on the log and watched the revelers for a moment before turning to Eoin. She smiled as she felt his gaze upon her.
“Why not come join us?” he finally said.
Eoin sighed happily. “I’d rather just watch,” she said dreamily.
Audric nodded and turned his eyes once again to the firelight. “I’m so glad I did not kill you,” he said slowly. “I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.”
“Why did you try if you didn’t want to?”
Audric sighed and tilted his head to one side. “I was persuaded to do it.”
“By whom?” she asked.
“My… umm… adviser, Guthlac,” he said slowly.
Eoin froze at his words. Where had she heard that name before? Then she remembered. When they’d still been in there former kingdom, she heard of a man named Guthlac who wanted to be king but couldn’t, so he left to a different place to see if he could rule one of those kingdoms. But why would he come to Corstan?
Audric caught her worried look and said, “What’s wrong?”
“Audric,” she said shakily, “do you have any idea who Guthlac is?”
Audric looked at her. “What do you mean?”
Eoin quickly told him of what she knew of Guthlac. “It may be someone else, but everything matches up. And I haven’t heard of any other kingdom that had a guy name Guthlac take over,” she said.
Audric sat there in grave silence for a moment and then let his head drop to his hands. “You’ve got to be kidding!” he moaned. “That’s why he wanted me to kill you so bad!”
Eoin looked away, suddenly realising the depth of the situation. If Guthlac was indeed bad, then they needed proof of it which they didn’t have. How would Audric get Guthlac to confess? Eoin looked at him again and let herself melt a little. She then turned to the thing at hand and her face became grave again. “What are we going to do?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
He is gone! The word spread quickly around the camp. Guthlac had mysteriously disappeared before Audric had a chance to confront him. Everyone was told about what Eoin thought and now it seemed even more likely that he was an enemy. It was Audric who finally suggested that they go after him.
“What?!” exclaimed one man. “You want us to go back and deliver ourselves into the hands of our enemy?
“Not just you, Wren. Me and my men as well,” replied Audric.
“I agree with Audric,” said Keshler. “We know that the marauders killed Guthran, but now there is another who could tell the king where we are. We must go after him or do you want King Joran to charge in here and kill us all?”
Silence was his only answer as the rest of the men thought about it. “But how do we keep out of King Joran’s clutches?” asked Wren.
“We will do our best.”
And so that was that. Audric and Keshler and many of the other men left Corstan in search of Guthlac. Eoin desperately wanted to go, mostly because if she didn’t, she’d be separated from Audric and Keshler, but she was refused and forced to stay in Corstan with the rest of the people.
Eoin watched brokenheartedly as the men rode away into the dim light of the forest. When would they be back if ever? She bowed her head as tears sprang to her eyes. A hand touched her shoulder and she jumped.
“What’s wrong, Eoin?” Riana asked.
Eoin wiped away her tears and forced a smile to her lips. “Nothing,” she said, her voice quivering.
“When will they be back?” Riana looked into the trees with small tears in her eyes as she spoke.
At that a fresh burst of tears came to her eyes. “I don’t know,” she wept, pulling her sister toward her and stroking the long golden hair. “I don’t know.”
Audric glanced back from his saddle and saw Eoin standing at the edge of the camp staring after them. She then lowered her head as though crying. Audric turned away, a pang of sadness washing over him. For some reason he wished she would have come, but he knew full well that it would be too dangerous for her. He shook his head and focused on the path before him. The sooner the mission was over, the sooner he could be back.
Since Audric had never been in this part of the land, Keshler was quickly made the guide of the group. After a few weeks travel, they stopped at a seaside city called Vienerly. It was there they heard the news of King Joran’s death.
“What?!” gasped Keshler as he and Audric stood at a table in one of the city taverns, talking to an old man who sat there nursing a mug of ale. “The king is dead?”
The old man swished the ale in his mug around and mumbled happily. “Yea got thet un right,” he said, a silly grin on his face. “Twas said thet he died on ‘is own without the ‘elp of others who would ‘ave gladly taken the trouble of doin et themselves.” The old man chuckled and raised the cup to his lips.
“Who is to be king?” asked Audric.
“Ya mean who ‘is’ king,” the old man said, totally oblivious to the shocked faces of his two companions.
Audric and Keshler shared a confused glance before turning back to the silly old man. “Alright,” said Audric, “who is king?”
“Well it’s the kings silly brother, Guthlac, who turned up just in time to have himself crowned king. He’s been away for years and years. Most folk thought him dead, but what d-ya-know! He comes and pounces on the throne like the silly fella he is.” The man continued to mumble happily as he swished his cup from side to side.
Both men stood in utter shock as they quickly took in the turn of events. Suddenly Keshler came back to life, grabbed Audric by the arm, and pulled him out the door. “Audric, I just thought of something!” he said excitedly once the two were safely out of earshot. “I know this is going to sound weird, but what if we rallied men from other kingdoms, men who definitely don’t like King Joran or his brother, and get them to help us overtake the king! It’ll be easier this time because Guthlac is still establishing his rule. Would you be willing to help us get back the throne?”
Audric thought for a moment. He suddenly realised that if they were to get back the throne, Eoin and her people would want to go back to there kingdom. He hated the thought of not being able to ever see Eoin again, but if that was what she and her people wanted, then he wouldn’t stand in his way. Audric nodded. “Alright. But it might not work.”
“I know, but we have to try,” Keshler said.
“Well, why not start here?”
They managed to gather four strong men from Vienerly and then they moved on, gathering as many men as they could from each town and city. Slowly their numbers grew and grew as they moved across the land. By the time they finally reached the borders of King Guthlac’s kingdom, they had with them the company of a little over a hundred knights and word of them was quickly spreading. They could do nothing to stop the new king from knowing that they were there, so this would take away the surprise of their attack, but they still had hope. They’d camped out at the edge of a forest until the time came for them to attack, but unfortunately Guthlac and his men were the ones to attack first.
Audric and Keshler and a few other knights were conversing when the warning of the kings approaching war band was announced. “It seems,” said Audric, standing up, “that they have taken the battle to us before we could take it to them. But do not dishearten.”
With that Audric blew the horn and the battle lines were assembled.
Water sloshed from the wooden bucket as Eoin began walking away from the creek, her heart feeling as heavy as the bucket in her hand. Audric and Keshler and the rest of them had been away for so long, it felt like they would never be back. She sighed as she stepped into camp and headed toward hers and her families of the new small wooden cabins that were being built. She stepped into the dark interior of the cabin and set the bucket on the floor. Snatching her apron up, she quickly wiped her moist eyes and then bent over to fill a jug with water, fighting to keep the tears at bay.
Suddenly from out in the camp there came a commotion of some sort. Eoin dropped the jug in the bucket with a start and rushed to the door. A small crowd had gathered around a very excited man who had apparently just entered the camp. She heard the murmur of excitement from the people and was quick to join in, hoping that perhaps they’d come home at last. As she drew closer, she recognised the man as one who had gone with Audric and Keshler. Her heart beat accelerated to faster than normal as her feet carried her to the crowd. Only then did she hear the news the man had brought. King Joran had died, replaced with Guthlac who was actually his brother. Keshler and Audric had gathered a force of knights to fight Guthlac and they’d won! The man said that the people who had come from that kingdom were to go back! Everyone was excited about it… that is except Eoin. All she could do was gasp and run back into the cabin. Leave? They were going to leave? Tears spilled from her eyes at the very thought. She didn’t want to leave, all she wanted was to stay in Corstan with Audric and her family. She sat down on a chair let her head drop into her hands, crying bitter tears.
Audric and Keshler came back a few days later, although their number had decreased since they’d left some of the men in the kingdom. There was much rejoicing among the people and Eoin tried her best to feel happy, but she was still subdued and did not smile often. One night as the people were talking over the campfire, she saw Audric coming toward her.
Keshler smiled as he watched Riana playing with one of the other little girls. They giggled and scurried across the ground with there stick men. He happened to glance up and froze at what met his gaze. Sitting off to one side, was Eoin and Audric, their full attention on each other and they seemed to be in deep discussion. Audric looked extremely uncomfortable, but he kept talking as if it was not in his power to stop himself. Audric paused for a moment and then quickly said something. Keshler watched Eoin’s reaction with distaste. Her hands flew to her face as she stared at him. He stiffened at this response as he realised what had just happened. He’d thought he’d detected something of the sort in both of them, but had never really thought about it much. Could it mean that perhaps she would want to stay? Keshler shook his head. ‘Of course she will want to stay here,’ he thought. He glanced up again just in time to catch Eoin’s eye as she looked up. Concern flitted across her face before Audric spoke to her and got up. She stared after him with a sort of longing that Keshler had never seen before. He stood abruptly and walked toward her, his face grave. He sat down beside her and was silent a moment.
“I guess you know what that was all about,” she said slowly.
Keshler nodded stiffly. “Uh hmm.”
“Keshler, please don’t be angry,” she pleaded. “I do love him.”
Keshler sighed and glanced over at her. “I know, but now you won’t come with us, I know that for sure.”
“Why not stay here?” she asked hopefully. “You and Riana could stay at Audric’s fortress with me. Please?”
There was a part of him that wanted to go back to their kingdom, but the other half of him wanted to stay in Corstan. He stood and began pacing as Eoin watched with pained eyes. He made the mistake of looking into her eyes and he just knew that he could not pull her away from Audric or leave her. “Alright,” he finally said quietly. “I will stay.”
Eoin leapt to her feet and threw her arms around Keshler’s neck. “Thank you, thank you!” she cried.
Keshler returned the hug. “Yes, but I think someone would like your company,” he whispered, indicating with his hand Audric looking on from the fire.
“Yes, yes!” she giggled.
Giving him one last hug, she hurried to Audric’s side. He took her hand and squeezed it gently, and in that moment it seemed everything was perfect.