Escrita por: ~ThatArielPerson
Birta crept back across the clearing, watching for Verndari. She knew he wouldn't be there; it wasn't like when they were children. He wasn't there, waiting to pounce on her, and he wouldn't be hiding in the prickly bush trying to fool her with strange noises.
Birta slipped her shoes back on. She couldn't stop thinking about what Verndari had said. She felt foolish for having loved him once. Even as a child she thought him handsome, and wanted nothing more than to run away with him and live deep in the forest. A young Verndari hadn't been afraid of anything, not even stories of the great dragons that allegedly carved out mountains with their fierce fire.
Birta walked away from the clearing, leaving the magic of the forest behind her. There was a small field near the mouth of the woods, and there grazed Lady Eydís' mare, Ravenfeather. Her sleek black coat was fitting to her name, and her gentle brown eyes gazed up at Birta as she approached.
"Let's go home, old girl." she said quietly. The mare nickered softly and Birta gripped the horse's mane, swinging herself up onto the sturdy animal's back. She was the only person in all the land that was able to ride the horses bareback.
As children, Birta, Verndari, and the sons and daughters of the help, had crowded into the stables to see Ravenfeather. Lord Agnar had just purchased a new horse, after his had to be put out of its misery. The young stallion was unbroken, and the children thought it would make a great game to see who could climb up on the horse's back.
The cook's son had received a broken leg that day. After the other children had carried him off to the priest, Verndari was cornered, trying to calm the frightened animal. His heavy hooves crashed down in front of him, echoing against the stones. Without thinking, Birta had run to stand between her friend and the mahogany beast.
The Clydesdale had stopped, his black nostrils flaring angrily. Birta had even stroked him that day, and had since ridden the horse bareback several times.
"Why did ya take off?"
Verndari paced his horse beside her. The animal had obviously been running. He would need plenty of water, back at the stable.
"I don't have anything to say to you." Birta responded, keeping her eyes forward.
"I looked everywhere for ya. The least ya could do is tell me what I've done wrong." Verndari said, slightly annoyed.
"You've done nothing wrong," Birta snapped, bitterly. "Did ya ever stop to think I might have problems of a personal nature? You interrupted me while I was alone."
Verndari was a bit taken back with the hardness of her voice. They hadn't spent time alone together since his brothers had been killed, but he was unclear on what he'd done to make her speak with such sting; like an angry wasp.
"I want ya to tell me what happened," he said, almost pleadingly. "Tell me what's on yer mind. Please, Birta, we used to be friends."
Birta felt her heart slam into her throat. She turned to look at him, her green eyes narrowed into slits.
"Exactly. Used to be."
She tapped her heels against Ravenfeather's sides, and the mare snorted before racing ahead of the confused young man.
Birta could feel the tears on her face, hot and wet. She could feel it all built up inside her, like an angry snake, ready to strike. She didn't know what to do anymore. The older she got, the more lost she felt.
She composed herself by the time she got back to the castle. Lady Eydís had always told her that ladies must hide their strengths and weaknesses behind a pretty face. Her skin was still flushed, but it could be explained away by her ride.
The stable boy led Ravenfeather to her stall. Birta patted the mare's neck as she walked away.
Some time later that day, Birta's knuckles rapped on the door to Lady Eydís' chambers. Her maid opened the door, smiling at the young woman, and let her in.
"What's wrong, my dear?" Eydís asked, sensing something troubled her. She had known Birta since the girl had shown up in the kingdom all those years ago, just a wee little babe. She could tell when she worried by the look on her face, just as it was with her own children.
"I wanted to talk to you, in hopes you'll speak with Lord Agnar." Birta replied plainly. She felt there was no sense prolonging the conversation.
Eydís wrinkled her brow, concern reaching the corners of her mouth.
"Whatever for, elskar?"
It had been some time since she'd used that pet name for Birta, who suddenly felt cruel for what she was about to say. She took Eydís' hands and sat with her on the edge of the bed.
"You frighten me, love," Eydís warned her.
Birta shook her head.
"I think I need to go," she started. "I appreciate everythin' you've done for me, and I'll always be grateful to the Nòtt house for takin' me in. But I am an orphan. I don't have titles, or gold of my own. I'm a woman now, and the priest has already told me I'll never be a mother. I have nothin' to offer a husband."
Birta stopped, thinking about the dream she'd once had of marrying Verndari, and his words to her that morning. She swallowed a sob.
"I just think that I should go." she said, sighing. "If this is my fate, then let me explore what wonders lay outside the edge of Svartur Sól."