WHISPERS IN THE DARK
Reidun found Conall right where she had left him, with Aksel. Aksel was telling the end of a story and the others started laughing. Reidun walked up behind Conall and sat next to him. “My final battle is done for the evening. That jerk won’t be so quick to hit them again. I saw the others still over there raiding and the like.”
Conall looked over to where Reidun had just sat down. Smiling at her presence he said “Aye there's still quite a few out there who are never satisfied with the raiding we do.” Then realizing what she had meant she went to confront the farmer he became worried that she left by herself. “You didn't leave the outpost all alone did ya?” he was generally worried for her especially considering that they didn't know if there was still an army out there or what dangers were left in these woods.
Reidun smiled softly at his worrying about her. “No, I took Harek with me. He seems preoccupied of late. How are you doing? Is the ale helping you to relax at all?” She moved to the log behind him and wrapped her arms around his shoulders and laid her head on his shoulder. “I hate to see you upset.”
Conall smiled at her show of affection. He looked down at yet another bottle of ale he drank. “Aye it is. Don't worry though I can handle it much better than my brother Harek. I bet he was barely able to stand when he went with you right?” He kind of chuckled at that. It was always quite a show when Harek drank and after a fight like today Harek was sure to be up to his eyes in ale. He rested his head on Reiduns just looking into the fire.
Reidun chuckled softly and moved to sit on the ground next to him. Pulling his arm around her she remarked, “He didn’t appear to be drunk but he was tripping over things a little more than he should have been I’d say.” She glanced up and caught Aksel staring at her and Conall with a smirk on his face. Wondering what he was thinking she raised an eyebrow at him. “Something wrong Aksel?”
Aksel’s smirk disappeared and he seemed off of his normal self. “How did you guys get into the castle?” He took another swig of his ale and stared at her.
Reidun grinned and chuckled. “I was wondering when you’d ask about that. I found a sewage grate around the back of the wall and we went in that way.” Aksel’s eyes sparkled with laughter as he pictured a group of them going into the sewage tunnel. Reidun couldn’t get the hilarity of it out of her mind.
“Aye it was great being a giant trying to crawl through a tiny hole in the wall that was full of shite.” Conall try as he might couldn't help himself but laugh at the fact they had done it. Rubbing the top of his head he began “I think hitting my head on that ceiling was the worst injury I got in the fight. But it was all fine once me and Harek finally got through and got in on the action.”
Reidun smiled at hearing Conall’s laughter. It warmed her heart. She grabbed a mug of ale and pulled off her boots and let her feet feel the grass as she sat on the ground. Sighing happily, however, she couldn’t get it out of her mind that Aksel was just a little off of his usual demeanor. He seemed to watch her as he got up and went to talk to some of the others. Barely paying it any mind she figured her hair was probably crazy looking and that would explain the odd staring.
Conall had seen Aksel giving him a strange look as he walked off but paid it no mind. He turned his attention to Reidun who he held close. “Thank you for staying with me today and sorry for giving you such a scare.” After finishing that he held her a little tighter as if he was afraid to let her go. “I am glad though that Harek seemed back to his normal self. I was worried that I might have to go beat some sense into the fool.” He laughed at the thought of them both fighting once again like they did so long ago.
Reidun laughed at his words while she looked at his hands up against hers. “I’m betting that when your mother had you that you nearly split her in two. Your hands are twice the size of mine and mine are not small for a woman’s hands. Do you think she would have liked me?” Reidun looked at Conall and she caught Aksel looking at her out of the corner of her eye.
Conall rubbed his chin with his free hand acting like it was difficult question to answer “I'm not sure.” Seeing her slightly worried look out of the corner of his eye Conall dropped the act with a little laugh. “I'm kidding of course she would’ve liked you. I’d go as far to say that she would’ve loved you.” Conall looking her in the eyes saw some relief as he continued ”“I mean how could she not like a strong woman with a strong will and one that could keep me in my place. That and the fact you're not a mindless killer but that you save the women and children.” Conall began to laugh as he brought up his next point. ” “That on top of your red hair she would have welcomed you easily as part of the family.”
Reidun smiled, happy to think of his mother liking her and accepting her as part of the family. “I would have loved to meet her too.” After a few moments she started pulling her hair down from it’s wild braids and crazy updo. “I need to get the brush for my hair. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Reidun got up, kissed him on the lips quickly and walked towards where they had put their things.
Searching through her bag she found it and felt hands behind her gently pulling her hair down. Reidun assumed it was Conall and she let him continue to undo her hair. Her eyes were closed and when lips kissed her neck her eyes opened in a hurry. This person had a beard. Turning quickly she saw Aksel and she stepped back.
“What are you doing kissing my neck. You know I’m with Conall. What is wrong with you!” Reidun angrily demanded from him.
Aksel apologized, “I’m sorry, I’ve had a lot to drink. I guess I just missed ‘us’.”
Reidun shook her head. “You had your chance five years ago. I’m happy now. I-”
Aksel grabbed her by the arms and pulled her into his arms and kissed her tenderly but Reidun pushed him back from her and touched her mouth. “Reidun, Conall is dangerous. He is not someone you should be with.”
Reidun ignored him and grabbed her brush. “You say nothing of this. I’ll not have you upsetting him for nothing. And if you touch me again-” Reidun reared back and punched him in the jaw. Her chest was heaving in anger and Aksel’s head spun from her hit. “Just don’t, Aksel!”
Too wound up she sat down and started unknotting her hair. Aksel walked away slowly and went back to get more to drink.
Conall had stayed sitting as with his back against the log as he continued to drink from a bottle of ale from one of the taverns from Watford. After finishing it he tossed the bottle aside with a disgusted face “is this what these people call ale?” he said to himself. He yearned for a drink much like the ones made back home but he only had one bottle left in his pack and he was saving that for a special occasion. Looking up from where he had tossed the bottle he saw Aksel walking back towards the fire.Weird he thought to himself as he didn't remember seeing him leave. “Oi Aksel over here” Conall said in a loud voice as he waved the Earl over as he rose to sit on the log itself.
Seeing Conall wave him over Aksel hesitated just a second but he turned to him and walked over and sat down. “What’s on your mind Conall?” Aksel offered him a jug of ale that he had just gotten. “Need a refill?” Aksel felt his jaw clicking thanks to Reidun and he smirked a little.
“Aye thanks” Conall was never the man to pass up a free drink. ]“Nothing of great importance really just felt like talking.” Conall felt that since he was very close with Reidun he assumed he should try to be on good terms with Aksel considering he had taken care of her and seemed to take protecting her quite seriously. “I didn't get much of a chance to talk to you since.” he pondered for a moment. “Well actually we haven't really talked much.”
Aksel looked at Conall and tried to see what Reidun saw in him. “No, the first time I heard anything about you you were in her bed.” Aksel stared into the fire a little bit. “I hear you have quite a past.” He took a large swig of his drink and smiled at the fire.
Conall put a hand on the back of his head as he carried a cheeky grin. “So you did hear me that night. I had kind of hoped you didn't know I was there.” Suddenly though Conall dropped all the playfulness in his face when he realized that Aksel had acted as if he knew about his past. Conall tensed up “Aye I do, what do you know of it? I enjoy hearing what rumors are passed around this fire.” Conall had hoped what Aksel thought he knew was just a stupid rumor like most that were passed around fires where ever Conall raided. “It seems that people can never help themselves but try to figure out where I come from and why im here.”
“Why are you here? Other than Reidun and raiding, is there something else? I’ve heard a lot of things. I prefer to ask you rather than just guessing. Reidun is ...well she is not like most women. If you hurt her… well-” Aksel kind of rolled his head and cracked his neck. “I’d hate to have to blood eagle you.”
“Well I do always enjoy a good fight. That's part of the reason.” sitting up straight making sure he used all of his height that he could. While he had warned Reidun himself that was out of love and not wanting her to be hurt. Aksels words however Conall swore had a different meaning behind them. But besides that Conall also took it as an insult that Aksel thought he would hurt her. “You don't have to worry about me hurting her. She's a strong one and I won't let harm come to her.” Conall narrowed his eyes towards the earl trying to find what exactly he was getting at.
Aksel caught sight of Reidun walking towards the fire. Her hair was down and she was eyeing him oddly. Sitting down next to Conall she slipped her hand into his. “What’s going on?” She asked suspiciously. “Is everything okay?” She looked up at Aksel and narrowed her eyes threateningly and he got up.
“Not much of anything. I just brought Conall some ale. I have to go do something over there.” He haphazardly waved his hand vaguely off to the left. When Aksel was gone she looked at Conall. “What did he say to you? He is acting a little weird. I think something is bothering him.”
Conall relaxed a bit as Aksel walked off and gripped Reiduns hand. “Nothing really we were just talking. Nothing you need to worry about.” Conall made one last glance over to Aksel. It was odd for him, he usually wasn’t like this with people. Most could testify that he was very easy going and made friends with most he met but something about Aksel was throwing him off. Turning his attention to Reidun he smiled at her as he placed his arm around her pulling her close and rest his head on hers. “What about you are you fine?”
“Aye, I’m a little tired though. It’s been a long day. At least my hair is down now. It was too tight on my head. Sorry it took me a little while to unravel it." Reidun stood up and pulled Conall to his feet chuckling softly. “Let’s head to bed. I know the outpost will be safe tonight. They have posted guards and the gates are closed and locked.” She lead Conall to the back of the encampment where she had set up their bed and tent. Reidun smiled as Conall took his boots off. She changed out of her fighting clothes and put on a dress that she usually wore. Her axe was always in reach though. Laying next to Conall she covered them up and fell asleep in his arms.
Fire. Fire and death was all Conall could see. Conall found himself in a giant city with stone buildings and a large castle in its center. Looking around he found that it all was on fire and bodies laid everywhere. “What happened here?” Conall said to himself as he wandered wandered around the city. He had realized that he was in his normal raiding gear and was covered in blood. Looking down he realized he was gripping his axes which were also covered in the blood of the slain. Conall began to get worried about what was happening, he didn’t remember any of this. “Reidun!” He shouted “where are you.” He began sprinting looking for her hoping nothing had happened to her. As he ran he found himself entering the castle that in all the devastation was still surprisingly intact. The sight that awaited Conall when he entered the throne room almost made him puke. Blood was splattered every as well bodies that seemed to be torn apart limb from limb. Hearing what sounded like crying Conall continued into the room.
“Why? Why did you do it?” said a voice coming from the bodies. When Conall looked the voice had come from one of the raiders he had seen with Aksel around the fire. “I thought you were one of us?” Conall stepped back out of fear at what the man was saying. When Conall backed up he kicked another body that was sitting up with its back against the steps leading to the throne. When Conall looked at the body he saw the lifeless body of Harek still wearing a face of betrayal.
“What happened to you brother?” Conall said with with a mix of anger and despair. Conall received his answer however when he saw one of his one family axes planted firmly in the chest of Harek. Conall tripped up the stairs as he tried to get away from the body. “No no no no. I didn't. I couldn't have.” Conalls hand made contact with yet another body. Turning around Conall saw the sight that would haunt him. Laying on her back with a puddle of blood around her was the women he could say he loved. “Reidun.” He said as he pulled her head to him as he began cradling her lifeless body. “No no no no. why you why you? It should be me not you.”
“Yes it should have been you. It's all your fault that I am dead.” Reidun said to him. Hearing this Conall dropped her back to her lying position with a genuine look of horror at what he was seeing. “It's your fault we’re all dead. You said you could protect us. You said you were our friend. Why didn't you warn us.” Reidun was now screaming at him “You could have stopped this but no you insisted on staying with me even though you know the kind of monster you are.” Conall was crying hard by this point at what he was hearing. “I'm sorry I Lov…” “NO you didnt if you truly loved me then you would have ran or better yet died to protect me!”
“No!” Conall shouted as he shot up with tears streaming down his face in a cold sweat.
Reidun had awoke at Conall’s thrashing in his sleep. She was currently laying out of range from his flailing arms. When he shot up awake she moved towards him and put her arms around him calmly. “It was a dream Conall. You are safe and you haven’t done anything wrong. Shh.”
Reidun climbed into his lap and let him hug her as she calmed him as best as she could. She remembered her own nightmares for a long time after her family died. She had always felt guilty and she knew he was feeling that way still. “You are safe and I am here.” She gave him reassuring butterfly kisses across his face and she wiped his tears.
“But you were, and Harek was…” Conall was having trouble speaking after what he saw. Conall held her close scared that he would lose her. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you.” Conall wiped the tears away from his eyes. “I need to go for a walk and clear my head.” Conall sat up and headed out of the tent.
Reidun walked out of the tent and stood there watching him as he walked off. His shoulders were slumped and he looked dejected and exhausted to her. She felt Aksel approach her rather than heard him. He had his eyes on Conall and then turned to Reidun. “I told you, he is dangerous.” Aksel looks her over and sees her arm reddened and his voice tenses angrily. “He hit you?”
Reidun looked up at him and shook her head. “Not exactly, he was having a nightmare and he flung his arm out. That’s all. I’m fine. I’m more concerned that he is so hurt.”
Aksel put his hands on her shoulders and moved in front of her. “You’ve only been together for two weeks or so. Don’t get so invested that you can’t see daylight for his shadows.” He looked into her eyes and she nodded.
“And if he hits you again, asleep or no...I’ll hit him back for it.” Aksel kissed her forehead lightly and walked back to his friends.
Wandering aimlessly around the camp he came upon Harek sitting staring into the fire. “What are you doing up this late old man?” Conall said sitting down next to him as he picked up a bottle of ale off the floor studying it to see if it was fit to drink before he took a swig.
Harek barely noticed as Conall sat down next to him. Jolted out of his haze by Conall’s words he looked up blearily as the tall man sat down next to him. “Just enjoying the heat. Why aren’t you in bed with Reidun?” Harek began to poke the dying fire to try and get it going again.
“Couldn’t sleep. Thought I might be able to relax with a fire in front of me.” Conall Stared into the fire as he Thought about his dream. “Harek may I ask you a question?” Conall said everything without looking away from the fire.
“Sure, what do you need?” Harek tossed the stick into the fire as the fire came back to life.
Conall kept his gaze on the fire for a moment before turning to look at Harek in the eyes with a look of concern. “Am I a bad man?” It was a simple question but Conall felt it the most important in the world.
“No, I have met quite a few bad men in my time. You are not one of them. You are a just a man that bad stuff has happened to.”
“You hold the same words as Reidun did.” Conall turned his gaze back to the fire. When his gazed reached the fire he saw himself standing at its center. He saw his face fade as it was replaced by the faces of those he had seen fall in combat, both friend and foe. “Do you still see their faces Harek?”
“It is a curse people like us must bear. Warriors with consciences...such irony”
Conall chuckled at the statement. It was indeed funny how great warriors who thrived in battle could be haunted as they were. “I’ll admit brother, I fear I’m becoming worse with every passing moon. The night terrors get more vivid and are no longer of the past but what is to come.” Conall hasn’t taken his eyes off the fire at all during this time.
Tossing an empty bottle off to the side “and I can’t even hide those fears under a drunken state with what they call ale here.” Conall laughed as the words left his lips. Seeing Harek still holding his ale he laughed once again. “Funny how these horrid things where the reason we met isn’t it.” He has said as he picked up yet another mostly empty bottle that once held ale.