King Brenin looked like a defeated man. The stress of the last few days had taken their toll on him, etching deep, careworn creases across his forehead. He had aged ten years in two days.
Helygen had sent someone to ask the king to attend on Eleri in her tent, said that it was urgent. When he arrived, he entered alone. The tent was not big enough to accommodate more people, a fact that he very soon was to be grateful for.
Eleri explained what they had found upon Celyn's body: a strange coloured veining around the wound given him by Arwel. She also proceeded to tell him what she thought it meant: that Arwel had deliberately poisoned Celyn to win the fight. He had cheated.
'It matters not what you think,' Brenin replied. His voice betrayed how tired he was. 'Does it bring Celyn back? Does it prevent your marrying Arwel? No. To make something of this now will only cause you more trouble in the future, Eleri.'
Eleri stared, open-mouthed, at her king. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Nevertheless, he had more to say.
'How do you think your life will be, married to a man whom you tried to label as a cheat and a murderer? You would be telling the tribes that he had no honour. That he is an oathbreaker.'
'He is an oathbreaker,' Eleri exclaimed, but to no avail. He carried on as if she hadn't spoken.
'It will not be a pleasant one. I can't allow that to happen. I owe it to Celyn to do the best I can for you.'
'No, Eleri. We do not have enough proof, only a few suspect convergences, which is all we've ever had. I know the truth of it. You know the truth of it. Celyn paid the price for it. But there is nothing to be done about it.
'You are Celyn's almost-widow. Druid Asyn will simply say you did this in a fit of grief, and who will not believe him? Everyone knows how much you loved Celyn, how heartbroken you must be. A woman in that position will go to great lengths for vengeance, whether it's justified or not. And they will pity you, and never take you seriously ever again.'
Brenin clasped his hands behind his back and stared at the ground. Shaking his head, he continued on, his voice full of frustration and regret.
'If it had been someone else who had noticed it, someone impartial in all this, then perhaps it would be different.'
'I spotted it,' Helygen interjected. 'It was me who brought it to Eleri's attention.'
'There is not enough distance between you. And all the tribes know you've been in here together, tending Celyn.'
He rubbed his furrowed brow with his fingertips. 'I'm sorry it's not what you want to hear. I'm not pleased about it either. But at this moment there is nothing to be done. We have always been two steps behind that bloody Riverlands king. If we react to this, he'll have a counter-move already in place, I'm certain of it.
'And, even if we should embark upon this course, where will it lead? When will it stop? I've lost my champion. I'm about to lose my priestess. This tribe cannot suffer any more losses.'
Brenin sighed. His was an impossible position. On the one hand he agreed that Celyn deserved avenging but on the other, he had a tribe of living men, women and children to think about.
'If we speak out and the other tribes do not see things as we do, we could lose more than a beloved warrior, Eleri. Besmirch Arwel's name and he may very well wish to restore his honour by making an example of the People of Carreg. If this leads to war, we could lose our allies. Or worse. The tribes here have coexisted in peace and harmony for twenty years. War exists beyond our borders, not within it. We might find ourselves standing alone, with no champion to lead our men, men who at present are miles away defending our northern border. Tell me, who is to protect our people if Arwel, guessing our reaction, has a raiding party waiting to descend upon us? He only needs to wait a few days and the summer camp will empty and the other tribes will return home. I say again, this tribe cannot suffer any more losses.'
Eleri paced the small distance before glaring across Celyn's body at her king. 'You're asking me to ignore the fact I'm about to be married to a murderer. You're asking me to let him go unpunished for what he has done.'
Brenin smiled wearily. 'I know it might look like that now, but that's not what I'm saying. I'm asking you to be patient, Eleri. I'm asking you to watch and wait until the time is right. Until we know we can win.'
Wait for the moonlight, Eleri. Only then will you find your destiny, the voice had spoken in the night. Was the same voice using King Brenin to remind her of what was and what would be? Or was he only saying what he thought was true?
Eleri tried to consider his words without skewing his meaning with her grief. Of course she wanted vengeance. Of course she wanted it right now. She wanted to do whatever she could to stop the wedding going ahead. She wanted the man who had slain Celyn in front of all the tribes and yet feigned innocence to pay the price for what he had done. And as for all his scheming, just what was he intending? What was the purpose of this pain he had intentionally inflicted? Where did this terrible path lead? Could it lead to war? Would her actions lead to the death and suffering of her own people? If she was to act now, blinded as she was, could she live with the consequences if things went wrong? She knew she could not.
There were so many questions she required answers to, perhaps Brenin was right. How could they proceed when they knew so little of what was going on. They had threads from a length of fabric, but they couldn't see the pattern that was being woven. Not yet.
If this truly was the only course open to them, then the next few days looked bleak for Eleri. This evening she would help send Celyn on his way through The Veil, to the Land of Anwnn. Tomorrow evening she would wed the man that killed him.
Thanks for taking the time to read this chapter. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please consider voting for it. What do you think to Brenin's reaction? As a king, should he be out for vengeance no matter the cost or should he play it clever and wait? React in his own time? Chapters for "Oathbreaker" will be posted every day in July, so please add the story to your library / reading list so you don't miss the next one, or like my page on Facebook for updates: https://www.facebook.com/Sammi-Cox-1697023080547692/
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Oathbreaker (Oathsworn Book 1)Historical Fiction
|| The Wattys Shortlist 2018 || Added to Historical Fiction's "Historical Fantasy & Fairy Tales" reading list || #1 in Celtic - October & November 2019 || * * * 'Be my wife.' The words were so quiet, Eleri wondered if she had really heard them. 'P...