Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chapter Four

The Eirian Chronicles
Book One: Broken Ties
Author J.E.D
Copyright 2004 by J.E.D as Common Law Literary Property.

Chapter Four

Lightening shattered the sky, rain lashed the windows. Lieria panted, fending off the urge to scream as her contractions mounted. She was sweat soaked and tired, and the worst was yet to come.
Tsoka looked to Alwen, her eyes tight with pain. Alwen worried her arthritis was acting up.
"We'll need all our wits about us for this one, girl. The nights a bastard waiting for our doom."
The old woman's words sent shudders down Alwen's spine. She stared numbly at the woman before her. She was a beautiful woman, even with her features contorted in pain. Her stomach was massive, rippling with the force of her contractions. Alwen's throat went dry as she forced away memories. Another chill slithered its way down her spine, lingering at the base. Her heart beat a tattoo against her ribs, her palms were damp.
"Tsoka, I don't know if I can do this. It's so similar." Alwen took a deep breath against the hysteria in her voice.
"I need you! I can't do this alone." Tsoka gripped the young woman's shoulders and gave her a quick shake. "I need your hands, child. Mine don't work so well as they used to."
Alwen nodded, gaining control of herself and set to work.
Thunder rattled the windows as the three women labored to bring life into the world. Alwen smiled as she wiped sweat off her brow.
"Well done, child." Tsoka said softly from where she sat, sipping tea.
Alwen looked to Lieria, a soft smile on her face. Although tired, she looked extremely please with herself. Eris looked down at the tiny form in his arms.
"Beautiful, simply beautiful." His eyes were wide with wonder as he stared down at his daughter.
After bottling some herbs and leaving instructions for Leeonka, Alwen made her way home. The rain had finally stopped and faint pink hues could be seen on the horizon. She felt her steps quicken as the cabin came into view. A nicker of welcome brought a smile to her lips and warmth to her soul.
"Long night, love?"
Alwen's steps faltered at the sound of his voice. She sighed in gratitude as he stepped forward and handed her a steaming mug of tea.
“It’s strong, but I had a feeling you’d need it.” He grinned as he helped her into the house. “There were two?”
Alwen nodded, stepping into the house and collapsing into a chair.
“Yes, two healthy twin girls. Completely identical.”
“And did the first born have a birthmark?” Rikard inquired, settling on the arm of her chair. Alwen opened her eyes and looked up at him.
“On her right shoulder. Rikard, have you seen something? Will she be alright?” Alwen sat up straight, worry in her eyes for the tiny infant, gripping his hands.
Rikard looked down at her, his eyes heavy and tired. “For now.”
Alwen nodded, rising and finishing her tea. There was nothing more she could do for the girls tonight. Leaning in, she pressed her lips to Rikard’s cheek.
“Thank you for the tea. I’m off to bed.” She stopped in the doorway when he called her name. “Yes?”
“What are their names?”
“Eirian and Esian.”
“Twin daughters born under the Gemini moon. Interesting.”
Alwen slept fitfully that night. Plagued by dreams of Tucker and the child Muldora took. She dreamed of a young man, dark of hair and eye. He sat in a throne of stone. A woman was by his side, her hair black with blue streaks, her eyes glittered with evil.

Screams filled her ears, pain and torture. Smoke filled the air, catching in her throat, choking her. Stumbling, eyes blurred as she ran. Bare feet crunching on charred grass. An explosion, tremendous white light. Now falling, falling forever.
The ground reaches out her arms, embracing her. Laughter surrounds her. Evil, maniacal, it floods her brain. Two violet eyes looming above her, hands reaching out choking the life from her…
Alwen woke screaming. Hysterical sobs wracked her body. The blankets were strewn about, her sheet and night dress sweat soaked. Biting her lower lip, she pressed a trembling hand to her chest. Or was it just the force of her heart that caused the trembling? It had been years since the massacre. Her nightmares made it seem like yesterday. The screams of her people filled her mind once more, wrenching a soft whimper from her lips.
Her door opened slowly, illuminating her in candle light. She clutched her knees to her chest, shaking her head.
Please, she thought desperately, let him not see me like this.
“Alwen?” His voice was rough from sleep, and yet somehow soft at the same time. His scent filled the room. He smelled of the forest after the rain. The bed bowed slightly with his weight. His sigh was soft, and yet said so much.
“Alwen?” Rikard inquired once more, tilting his head toward her.
Reluctantly she lifted her tear streaked face to his. This was the downside of living with him; he suffered through her nightmares as well.
“Again, love?” He cupped her cheek in his palm, running his thumb over the apple, catching her tears.
“Nothing stops them. She’s up to something, I know it. Don’t you see that?” Her eyes were wide with hope, her body yearning for his touch.
Living with him had done nothing to diminish her love. If anything it had made it stronger. People naturally assumed they were married, and it broke her heart to have to correct them. She was a woman of twenty-seven years, she wanted the marriage, children. What she wanted now more than anything was for him to take her in his arms and kiss away all her fears and worries.
“I’m sorry, Alwen. I’ve seen nothing. I wish I could tell you differently. I’ve been trying to force the visions…” His voice trailed off, brow furrowed in thought.
“Rikard!” Alwen gasped. “Doesn’t that hurt? Didn’t Seamus say that could cause you great pain?” Leaning into him she placed her hand on his arm.
Rikard stiffened at her touch. Her skin was so soft. Lifting his hand he took hers, looking at her slender fingers.
“There is some discomfort.” He mumbled, turning over her hand. How was it that such small hands held such strength? Giving in he pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her waist.
Alwen looked up at him, shock registering in her eyes as her body folded naturally against him. She turned her face up to his, tentatively brushing her fingers along his cheek.
“Rikard,” Her voice was soft, her eyes heavy and dark with emotion. Their faces were inches apart now, she could taste the sweetness of his breath.
Rikard wasn’t sure who had spoken, or if it was a plea from his own mind. Uttering a soft oath he gathered her closer to him and pressed his lips to hers.
Her lips brought about a wonder of emotions. His heart slammed against his ribs, his hands fisting in her long hair.
A soft moan escaped her lips when he pulled back, caressing her face. Their breath came in soft pants, mixing together.
“Alwen,” He breathed her name, almost like a prayer. He was almost lost to emotion staring at her beautiful face when he noticed the dark circles under her eyes. Her lashes were wet with tears, her body shuddering.
Damn him, he’d scared her. How could he possibly expect her to respond any other way? She was exhausted, frightened for her life, and he’d taken advantage of her. Jerking back as if he’d been slapped her rose and quickly stepped away from the bed, before he could frighten her anymore, or do something stupid.
“Forgive me.” He muttered turning and racing from the room.
Alwen stared at the door swinging closed. Her brain was muddled from lack of sleep and blooming passion. What had she done wrong? Her body trembled from his touch, wanting more.
Tears slid down her cheeks as she fell back onto the bed, pulling her knees to her chest. She wanted to ask him to come back, wanted to beg him to hold her, to kiss her like that once more. But he’d seemed so shocked; maybe he didn’t even want her.
Confusion flooded her mind. Hadn’t he kissed her? Or had she kissed him? She didn’t even know now. Part of her hoped this was all some elaborate dream, but she knew it wasn’t. Curling up on the bed, she pulled her blankets over her and resigned herself to crying herself to sleep.

Morning dawned bright and tense for the small cottage on the hill. Breakfast was fast and silent. Before Alwen could open her mouth, Rikard had finished and left the room.
Alwen cleaned up their dishes and got dressed. She wanted to go and check on Lieria and the twins. Grabbing her cloak she made her way toward the small stable.
Carbon and Brisa nickered at her, trotting up to the fence in greeting.
“Hello, my beauties.” Alwen smiled as the coal black stallion shoved his nose under her hand, wanton for attention.
“And a good morning to you too, Carbon.” She laughed when he tossed his head and nickered, sending his silky mane flying.
“Yes, I know you’re beautiful.” She laughed again, patting his shoulder, before moving over to her pride and joy.
“Hello, my love.” She whispered as Brisa gently pressed her cheek against her own. Alwen stroked her smooth nose, enjoying the closeness.
“Feel like a ride today? Come on, let’s go.”
Brisa stood patiently as Alwen adjusted her saddle and packed her saddle bags. The sun was warming her back as Alwen finished her preparations. She was about to climb up onto Brisa when the hair on the back of her neck prickled. Turning, she looked toward the cottage in time to see Rikard closing the door.
“Cowardly man.” She muttered, swinging into the saddle. “I don’t understand why things have to be so complicated.”
Clucking her tongue she turned Brisa onto the path to town. It felt wonderful to ride. The wind caught her hair, teasing and tugging at it. The sun warmed her skin, even as the chill pulled out the color in her face. She squeezed her thighs, urging Brisa faster, wanting to feel the hum of the wind in her ears.
She didn’t take the pleasure of riding nearly often enough, choosing instead to walk to town most days. They reached the border of town quickly as Brisa flew over the roadway, her feet seeming to never touch the ground. Reluctantly Alwen reined the mare in as they reached the town proper.
She inclined her head to vendors and patrons who called out to her, steering Brisa toward the Jade house. Brisa’s hooves clicked on the cobblestone, echoing off the close buildings.
“Hello again, Miss Alwen.” Aric, the Jade’s valet beamed as she pulled Brisa to a stop before the house. The young man reached out and ran his hand along Brisa’s neck. “Didn’t expect you back so soon.”
Alwen dismounted, smiling at the young boy. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen summers old, and if she were correct, had a bit of a crush on her.
“I wanted to check on the Lieria and the twins.”
Aric smiled as he accepted the reins from her, his hand staying near hers a moment longer than proper. “They’re the most beautiful babies in town. Never a fuss out of them, unless they’re apart! Head on in, Miss Alwen, I’ll see to Brisa for you.”
Alwen stepped into the great house, taking off her cloak and passing it to the waiting maid. She wondered what it would be like to constantly have someone there to serve you. She shuddered at the thought.
The house looked no different from the last time she’d been there. Had it been a month already? Shaking her head in wonder she made he was down the hall to the back bedroom.
“Lieria?” She called softly, opening the door a crack.
“Alwen, come in, please.” Alwen could hear the smile in Lieria’s voice as she entered the nursery. Lieria sat in a rocking chair, a blanket covered babe at her breast. A mass of curling black hair was visible above the blanket. Tiny pink lips were wrapped greedily around her mother’s nipple. Alwen smiled as the babe opened her eyes and peered up at her. They were a startling green, and wise beyond her years.
“Esian’s a good eater.” Leaning down, she ran a finger along the child’s perfect black eyebrow.
Lieria looked up from watching her daughter, shock coloring her face.
“How did you know this was Esian? We ourselves have a hard enough time telling them apart! And you’ve seen them only once before.”
Alwen shrugged and lowered herself onto a couch beside Lieria, still watching the child.
“Her nose is slightly longer, and she has a freckle on her left eyebrow. Plus Eirian has a birthmark on her right shoulder.”
Lieria looked down in wonder, tracing her finger over the small dark circle under her daughter’s eyebrow.
“Where is Eirian anyway? I’d love to hold her if I could.” Alwen asked, looking around the room. The crib the twins shared was empty.
“Eris took her for a walk in the garden. It’s so lovely outside.” Lieria shifted Esian to her shoulder, lightly running her hand along the babes back.
“Oh.” Alwen toyed with the sleeve of her dress, trying to hide her disappointment. Lieria positively glowed. She looked happy and healthy, and very well rested for a new mother of twins.
“Are you having any problems with the girls?”
“No, they’re perfect. Not a peep out of them unless they’re apart for too long. Then they’ll scream until you get them back together.”
As if on cue, Esian threw her head back and let out an ear piercing scream. Lieria jumped, then began bouncing and cooing.
Alwen covered her ears with her hands, amazed that such a sound could come out of something so small.
“Shall I go look for Eris?” She cried, attempting to pitch her voice over the wails of the baby.
“What?” Lieria called standing and pacing with Esian. Tears filled her eyes as she quietly begged for the baby to calm down.
Then as suddenly it began, it ended. Esian lifted her head and looked expectantly toward the doorway. Not a moment later Eris and Eirian stepped through. Eirian was pressed close to his chest, her tiny lips pursed, tiny pearlescent tears sliding down her dusky cheeks.
“I believe she’s hungry, love. She just started screaming. She didn’t stop until we were almost at the door.”
Alwen kept her eyes averted as he stepped into the room. Her back stiffened as she felt his gaze on her, lingering.
“Alwen, it’s good to see you.” His voice was warm as he passed off Eirian to Lieria. “I was wondering when you were going to come see us.”

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