Some said it had always been God’s will that Gwillym Hywel would be a knight; what else would explain for his inches in height above his own father, or the fact the boy had never once shown interest in any other calling than knighthood. Since his early boyhood, when he’d been smaller than Cadi- who hit her growth spurt years before the boy, he’d run about their home estate shouting and insisting that he was Sir Gwillym Hywel, greatest knight in all of Wales. Back then, the sister’s used to tease him, as he’d only just begun to learn how to swing a wooden sword, and Cadi had been his superior in both height and strength at the time. Now, though he was still a squire, it’d be far harder to jest about the boy’s dreams of knighthood, his overall appearance no longer that of a scrawny boy, but rather a well built, if still growing, man. He wore a dark leather tunic, a preferred piece for the hunt, and leggings to match. His bow and arrow were left abandoned somewhere, and if the boy had been successful in his hunt, he’d already taken the time to wash up afterwards, a bit of moisture still glistening against his smooth jaw.
“Cadi.” He spoke her name after his like a broken echo, smiling back down at his elder sister, glancing down to his clothes awkwardly as she had commented on them, confused, as he mistook her comment to be in regards to any dirt or blood he might have sullied the tanned leather with, “Ah-...uh, I didn’t think I had gotten anything on them…” He mumbled, taking a step closer as she gestured. He wasn’t as bright as his sisters, having never taken to his studies of book as he did to the sword, but the boy wasn’t exactly dull either.
“My hunt? Uh, I didn’t stay out long. I saw a doe, but she likely just dropped fawn, so I let her go. I did manage a few small rabbits, no trophies.” He shrugged his shoulder, and for a moment, it might seem as if the boy wasn’t going to blow in Eira to their eldest sister, but the moment passed, and the boy continued, “I would have had better game had I not wasted time visiting our beloved
middle sister.” He paused for a moment, allowing Catrin to react, before his voice came again.
Catrin remained silent, her head nodding carefully as she listened. Having never tried hunting she did not understand the interest so many held for the activity. The resentment while mild Wil held for their wayward sister seemed misplaced, but then Cadi didn’t know how much time one needed to devote to the hunt anyway.
“I went to the Parish to see her devotion to Christ,” He could almost roll his eyes at that, “ in the flesh, and just as I expected, she was not amongst the pews. I took ten steps into the forest, and found her, apparently writing.”
Startled that Wil would so easily tell tale on Eira Cadi looked down demurely, her hands clasping before her. Up until now she had been able to deny knowledge fully of what it was Eira did beyond the castle walls.
Of course she had always suspected, Catrin being no fool. Still… Now she truly knew and that meant if her father or mother were to confront Cadi she’d have to outwardly lie or sell out her sister.
An uncomfortable place to be.
As it was Cadi was just as sure that Wil was confiding in her due to concern for Eira, who at times could be a bit careless…
He betrayed her, or maybe it wasn’t so much of a betrayal because he did not go to their parents, who would ream the girl, but instead to their gentle elder sister, who he knew would not go confess to their overseers either. Gwillym didn’t trust Eira not to disobey him the moment he disappeared over the horizon. Catrin, at least, she seemed to listen to with a bit more heed, the two sisters having grown close to one another in his absence. “She’s going to get caught, I really do not know how she’s managed it for so long, though I suppose father hasn’t the time to visit the Parish with all this panic of war-...And she apparently is careful enough that she always arrives to the local parish before mass is dismissed.”
The boy shook his head, expecting Catrin to be on his side, because he knew
he was being rational, with a mind tethered to reality rather than way up in the clouds where Eira’s consciousness lingered.
Cadi was quiet for a moment longer before leveling her sea green eyes on her younger brother. Little did not seem the right term anymore, for little he was not.
“Wil…” Cadi clasped her brother’s forearm imploringly, her own hands soft to the touch as a lady’s ought to be. An instant was allowed for her to be surprised by the strength there in his arm, hard and wry to grip before the eldest Hywel went on.
The boy frowned at the tone of her voice, beginning as she often did; first to speak their name, and then her words of disagreement followed. Before she’d even began her argument, Gwillym’s dark brows were beaten together, looking down at her critically as she held onto his arm.
“It’s different for you, you’re the heir and a man.” Even a few months ago Cadi would have called Wil a boy, but today she could see he was past boyhood. While a man perhaps was not entirely what he was, childhood seemed to have slipped away.
She also wanted to flatter her brother as well to sweeten his temper.
“Eira and I...We’re locked away from the world, kept in the dark about it all, expected to be sweet gentle creatures despite what is happening to our countrymen...To our lands and to our people.” Cadi let her hand drop from Wil’s arm to sweep out to the blurred window indicating the world beyond, to a freedom the girls would never truly know.
“You can fight, you can go out and stop the English and bandits and anything else. You are strong and everyone expects you to be able to handle yourself.” Long lashed eyes drifted to the shelves around them, filled with books, how many had she herself read?
“In here, we are caged. I used to fight that as well, you must recall when I was smaller…” Rebellious was the word used. Sighing Cadi shook her head as sad small smile moved over her lips.
“Eira...She is just more ...Well…” Cadi reached up to her brothers dear face to stroke it affectionately. “She is more like you my dear heart…” Catrin let her fingertips press against Wil’s lips to silence the argument she could see growing there.
“I do agree...It’s dangerous to go out alone... “ She conceded. “ I just also understand the urge to do so…” Couldn’t he?
That unyielding look of annoyance did not falter, blossoming into more of a brood by the time Cadi had pressed her finger against his lips, his hand reaching up to ensnare her own, and brought it away. “I know, Cadi.” He replied grimly, “She just worries me. I’m not going to tell father, or anything drastic, but I still don’t like it…” there was a pause, “And I was hoping you’d feel the same way. I should have figured, when have
you agreed with me?” The boy shown a glint of a smile afterwards, having awkwardly allowed his sister’s affections, but now he stepped carefully back, brown eyes upturning toward the ceiling.
“I don’t know why everyone insists Eira and I are so alike, I know she hated it when people use to ask if we were twins-... She really hates it now when people call her my little sister-” The grinning remained, “But really, we’re hardly alike at all. All she does all day is pen away in her books or sulk around; when was the last time you saw me writing for leisure? Never.”
“A hobby is not a reflection of someone’s true character little brother...You know that as well as any other. You and Eira are both dear to my heart and dear to each other…” She grinned. “You both like tweaking each others tails and bickering for the sake of argument. You both act tougher than you truly are…” Cadi held up her hand defensively.
“Not that you are not a brave warrior my brother, but your heart is kind…” Cadi looked down the windows once more. The sun was shivering behind the watery clouds.
Gwillym opened his mouth to retort, but before he found the words, the gentle click of footsteps disturbed his attention. The boy twisted his chin to a newcomer, frowning as he did.
From a western door, Eira had found her way to the library, unknowing that both her siblings awaited her there. When she emerged from the high shelves, she still had the light mauve scarf wrapped around her head and shoulders, and her slate-grey gloves were still pulled over her hands, suggesting that the girl had just returned from prayer.
“Three hours at the Parish? Sister, if father had known you were so devote, he’d have sent you to the Abbey by now.” The boy teased her, a crooked grin breaking his leering demeanor.
In response, Eira pulled the scarf down from over her mouth, the tip of her nose reddened from the cold despite being covered, and sneered, “Enough of it, Gwillym. I’d sooner die
then live my life in the nunnery.” She brought her hand to the center of her chest for effect, and pressed her lips into a tight line, “And father doesn’t know I returned so late, so why bother him with it? There’s nothing wrong with a morning of prayer.”
Catrin worried as her siblings started bickering almost at once. Of course Wil had been an ass immediately… But Eira couldn’t NOT rise to the occasion could she?
Why couldn’t they enjoy the limited time they had together before Wil was sent off to the borders?
An indignant snort was all Gwillym could reply, rolling his eyes, and looking out the window at the brewing storm, “Any more time spent ‘praying’, and you’d have returned soaking wet.”
With a roll of her eye Cadi conceded to herself that they must be enjoying each other’s company. Who else would Eira argue with when Wil was gone? Who would annoy and pester Wil while he was in his masters keep?
The lean girl shrugged her shoulders, the shawl wrapped around her obscuring most of her body, but one could tell simply from the frame of her face and the narrow width of her neck that she was all bone. Her eyes were now on Cadi, ignoring Wil like they used to when they were young, “And why are you away from your lessons?” She tried to imitate their mother, shifting her accent a little, and pressing her brows together in disapproval, but a second later, the smile broke the facade, and Eira’s tuneful voice returned, “-...But really, I hardly ever see you around this type of day, decide to host a rebellion?” She grinned between the two of her siblings, getting another eye-roll of Wil, but she just returned it, and tried to ignore their younger brother.
Catrin lowered her chin to hide her smile demurely. The attempted accent of their mother was rather good.
“Alas my tutor wrote me off as a bad job… I have no knack for languages…” That was simply untrue! But she didn’t want to burden her sister with the harsh realities that danger and war were at their doorsteps.
Instead the eldest fussed with her shawl and gestured to the window. “Wil is right Eira...A few minutes more and you might have been wet…” The rain had started to fall from the heavy clouds.
Uncertain as to what to discuss Catrin figited. She told Wil she’d talk to Eira about the wandering...But if she brought it up now he’d only attack their little sister. However Catrin did not want to discuss the reasons why she was not in lessons now.
Awkwardly she leveled her sea green eyes on Eira, opened her lips to start the reminders of Eira’s duty for safety, and promptly shut them.
Catrin did not want to argue.
“I’m so glad you’re both here...It’s so rare I see you at the same time…” A smile, genuine and sweet, was given to Wil and Eira. “It’s so nice.”
Both Gwillym and Eira reacted in the same way, both in the awkward stage of life where though they held a deep love for Catrin and another, they simply did not know how to express it. So it started with Wil snorted, and then Eira laughed a little, and then Wil laughed a little more, until they were both cracking up.
Her happy look of contentment was rapidly changing into one of disgust. Siblings. Just another word for barbarians really.
“You act like this is goodbye.” Eira jested, and Gwillym added.
“Sir Byrn seems content on remaining another week. Please, do not get emotional yet...You girls and your unbound sentiments…”
Catrin actually rolled her own eyes now. Those warm loving feelings were dissipating quickly. Perhaps she had been misunderstanding her feelings? Was it warm and fuzzy and loving or actually itchy and irritated?
“Who are you calling girls? We’re older than you, boy.” Eira responded, her eyes daggering on Gwillym, which was exactly the response he was hoping to draw from her, knowing just what buttons to push with her.
“Catrin, I’ll admit,” He bowed his head toward her, “But I simply cannot believe you are my elder. I honestly think perhaps you stopped maturing six years ago. In mind and body.”
“This coming from the boy who has been dragging around a big stick for years to hit people with…” Back in the day Catrin used to be one his victims, a few wallops coming her way until their father had put a stop to it. What good did it do him if his eldest daughter had bruises on her hands and arms?
Eira pressed her lips together, knowing he was baiting her, and she was smart enough that she knew she shouldn’t bite, but it was right there in front of her, and she had no fear to hold her tongue, at least not to Gwillym, who at worst would raise his voice when he was really impassioned. “You think just because you went off and became a knight-...excuse me, are becoming a knight, that it lends you any more years or wisdom over me, you’re absolutely wrong. You might be bigger, but you and I both know that you might have your share of the brawn, but I, little brother, have all of the brain.”
Sea green eyes swiveled to Eira. “All of the brain?” Cadi quoted sharply.
“Alright. We, We have all the brain.” Eira corrected quickly, having not meant to spur her sister.
That usual sharpened look Gwillym wore directed itself onto his sister, hating when she insulted his intelligence, though he was not daft, he knew he could not compete with her if she wanted to battle wits, and unfortunately, he would never lay a hand on her physically, as much as he might wish to sometimes, “I wish you’d been born a boy, so I’d be able to see how your brain really fairs against my brawn. I-”
But Eira interrupted him, “If I was born a boy I would be the heir, little brother,” Her voice dripped with honey, as it often did when she felt she knew something he did not, “And you’d not touch me, brother. I’d be our sweet father’s favorite.” She dragged the final word out, rolling her eyes along with it, as there was a bit of contempt in her tone, “And if we did fight, I’d be older than you, so I’d be better trained, and you would never win.”
Love? Nice? What had she been thinking?! Cadi reached up to cross her arms over her chest as this ridiculous debate went on before remembering that ladies did not cross their arms. Settling for clasping her hands before her belly the eldest could not hold in a sigh of exasperation.
“I’d still be bigger, and you will never win a fight against me” He stated stubbornly, looking down at her meager height.
“Are you suggesting if I was a man, I would be the same height? That’s ridiculous!”
Gwillym shook his head, the poison leaking from his tone as he lobbed a big dopey smile down at his sister, “No. That’s how it works. If you were a man, you would be your height.”
“And if you were a woman, you would be yours?” She added, annoyed to see how Gwillym grinned and nodded back eagerly, “Well, if you were a woman, you’d be an ugly one at that.”
Perhaps if she just left they wouldn’t notice?
“If you were a man, you’d be a girlish one, and a shame to father. He’d still love me the best. He’d disown you, and name me his heir. It’s only fair, to name the hero of Wales his most beloved son and heir.”
“You think for as large as your head is, you’d fill it with more than just hot air…” Eira snided, to which Gwillym jumped at her for, and the girl screamed, and took off between the rows of books. “Cadi! Stop him! Cadi!” She shouted, laughing between them as she grabbed a few books from the shelves as she ran past, a fast little thing, and tossed them down the aisle at her younger brother, “Wil! No! Leave me alone!” The boy could have easily caught up with her, but he gave Eira a little chase, catching one of the books, and swatting the other ones away.
Widening her eyes as the two started to bolt Cadi looked about to ensure no attendants were nearby to report their childish antics.
“Wil…” Catrin called, albeit half heartedly.
“Don’t throw the books!”
Covering her face with one hand Catrin (at a much more stately pace) followed behind her two barbarian siblings picking up the various books and replacing them randomly on the shelves.
Finally, he paced up with his older, little sister, catching her by the arm and dragging her to a sudden stop, despite her protesting. He pushed her to the floor, admittedly a little roughly, though he’d done far worse in the past. Sitting on her chest, the boy pinned both her hands expertly, grinning, “So-...How’s all the brain helping you in this situation, hm, Eira?” He teased, the girl kicking and twisting roughly.
“Get off me, Wil, this isn’t funny. Were you not just boasting about your maturity?” Eira fought, “ You’re stronger than me, don’t think too much of it, I’m half your size.”
Volumes returned to their ‘proper’ spots Cadi turned to see Wil essentially tackling Eira to the floor. Years of seeing the two fight made their sister barely flinch. Eira was tougher than she looked and Wil would never REALLY hurt her.
“Oh, I know. Are you admitting that brawn is superior to brain then?” He asked, to which the girl shook her head, squirming and pouting, “Alright then. Show me how your brain is going to stop me from spitting on your face.”
“Catrin!” Eira shouted desperately, twisting her face and closing her eyes as Gwillym threatened her, his lips puckered, ready to dribble a long glob of spit on her face, “Get this beast off me! Cadi! Cadi!”
“Enough!” She snapped, her tone sharp and foreboding.
“Wil, Knights are supposed to be chivalrous and above such petty behaviors” Such as spitting on one's sister.
“And Eira, you know full well if you ruin your gown even I cannot save you from mother’s wrath.”
Catrin bent to tug on Wil’s arm so that he might stand again, freeing Eira. Looking about nervously Cadi saw no one else peering over the shelves at them. Luck had been on their side, had not all the lords and knights been in on that council meeting surely her sibling's antics would have been caught.
Black thoughts returned and the brunette bent to give Eira her hand up off the floor. “We should prepare for supper.” She murmured softly.
Gwillym looked over at Catrin as she pulled at his shoulder, his eyes narrow, because she really couldn’t make him get off Eira, and for half a second, he looked like he might just remain. But finally, he sighed, and stood, grinning down at Eira as she stood quickly after with the help of Cadi, and brushed her skirt down, glaring at him.
If he was going to remain, he might be unnerved by the fact that Eira would likely enact her revenge, though he knew his sister was the type who’d spend months plotting, a very patient girl, and he supposed in a few months when he returned, he could worry about what torture awaited him. For now, he was victorious, his hand batted away by the girl, who pulled her scarf back over her face, and turned away from the boy. She acted upset, but Wil knew that by supper, she’d be over it, just needing a few moments to mourn that she’d lost.
In the meantime the boy felt the usual pains of hunger plaguing him often despite the fact that at home, the boy ate at least three large meals a day. But he was growing, as his mother and father insisted, and so he looked forward to the upcoming meal, “Catrin’s right. I’ll go wash up-...Eira, I suggest you should to.” He eyed his sister, “Last thing you need is for father to discover a forgotten grass stain, hm?” He offered, though she was still cross with him, waving the boy’s advice away.
“Thank you, Catrin…” She murmured to her sister, but then made her way out of the library, embarrassed by Gwillym.
The boy could hardly care, grinning like a big dope, and shrugging his shoulders at Catrin, “Wonder what crawled up her skirt…” He remarked, before making his exit as well, overeager as he was reminded of the upcoming meal.