TL: Hey guys.
Edit: Stuff has been cleared up to have a cleaner page.
TL: Before I forget, I found a pretty interesting thing on desktop a few days ago. I’m using windows 10, and there’s this Magnifier Tool (you can call up by pressing “windows button and + button” at the same time). Press “CTRL ALT I” and you invert all colors. So if you’re having problems with reading on a white background, try doing that.
Chapter 145 – Warm words of Hope (7)
“Is the little girl your daughter?” Brendel said to the middle-aged man.
“She is indeed Brynjar’s daughter, my lord, but I’ll be taking care of her. Her mother is my adopted daughter.” It was the Elder who replied: “He has volunteered to be your guide because he’s grateful that you brought her back.”
(TL: I searched for a while, but I’m not finding any medieval equivalent for “in-laws”. That term seems to be relatively new. So instead of Bro.-in-law X, it’s just Brother X. I’ll assume that a father/mother calls his son-in-law by name without any addressing term.)
He took a moment to stroke Sifrid’s head.
“I would gladly guide you through the Dark Forest myself but I hope my lord understands I have to lead the village, even though I’m more familiar with it…..”
The mercenaries were silent the entire time. The rumors about the Dark Forest were more several times worse than the bedtime stories used to frighten the children in Aouine to sleep.
“What of her mother?” Amandina asked with furrowed brows.
The Elder sighed and his eyes appeared distant as he recalled old memories: “Sifrid’s mother shares half the blood of an Elf and was the loveliest girl in our village. She was also the happiest girl when she married Brynjar, but regrettably, she died to protect the other villagers during the previous ‘Hunt’……”
Brendel’s throat went dry. Memories of the crucified men and women came flooding back to him once more.
A Hunt was something that the nobles did to subjugate the fearsome barbarians. This practice was supposedly eliminated during the first Holy War as they stopped invading civilized kingdoms by then. Graudin’s supposed Hunt against the Senia’s citizens was nothing more to fulfill his perverse bloodlust.
[That fucking bastard must have deepened the feud between the locals and the Senia through some ridiculous reasoning……]
“…… I see.” Brendel chose to move forward: “Let’s move on to the next topic. I won’t object to your choice since you have already decided. I don’t believe going into the forest is a simple matter, so how much time do you need?”
His eyes went briefly to Brynjar before it went to the little girl. It should be fine to at least preserve his life with three Gold-ranked fighters in his group but he was troubled about the villagers.
“We will be ready in a few days, but my lord, I wish to warn you about the Dark Forest. It will become dangerous when autumn sets in fully. It is especially so just before winter, because the starving beasts in it will become extremely aggressive. And the powerful monsters—”
“That is fine,” Brendel interrupted him. “We only wish to cross the forest and we can handle anything that comes along our way.”
The Elder looked surprised; his mouth opened and shut a few times but no words came out.
He did not know Brendel was looking for the druids. They had been gone for nearly four centuries and had no ties with the outside world.
The youth was familiar with their territorial ways, and once he entered the forest, he was certain he was able to bait their ‘Beasts’ out. With his experience, he would be able to discern the druids’ locations if they ran back to their hideouts.
[The only problem I have is convincing the druids to find the legendary Lost Santuary, Vahalla, for me. These hidden race is neutral and holds no interest in humans’ affairs. The alliance between the druids and humans have been broken even before they chose to hide themselves. A Senia with me should help…… But there’s also the issue of my enemies are piling up before me. I probably need to find quicker solutions because I’m running out of time.]
He could only take one step at a time. The druids were slightly different from the Silver Elves. In a way, they were slightly better in comparison to the Silver Elves because they did not sever their ties to the outside world. The druids having a good relationship with the Senia was proof that he could strike up a relationship with them.
The Elder did not suspect Brendel’s motives. If they wanted to destroy the village they could have done so easily. One could only imagine how powerful they were when they took back Sifrid without any injuries with the amount of people they had.
But he was fearful of the aftermath. His experience told him that Baron Graudin would never let this feud go, and his wrath will reach this village very quickly.
[This village is unable to defend against Graudin. I originally wanted this young man and his mercenaries to stay here until this winter but he has flatly refused me….. They are not interested in our lives and only want a trade between us.]
The Elder had measured this in his heart. He felt that he had no excuses or rights to refuse Brendel. He could only sign deeply inside in his heart.
“I understand, my lord.” The old man bowed and said. “We will make arrangements for you as soon as possible.”
Brendel merely nodded.
When the Senia left he felt he could finally relax. He understood the worries of the Elder, but there was not enough time for him to stay the entire winter. And even if he did it might not be of use—
[Even if I march right up to Graudin’s face and tell him I did it, that crazy bastard would just vent his anger on them regardless.]
“Brendel, can we help them out?” Romaine tugged at his sleeves.
“I can lead them into the forest, but there’s no way for us to provide enough food to last them through winter. The only place we can purchase additional food is within Graudin’s territory, but do you think they would sell to us?” The youth spoke slowly.
Romaine’s eyes flickered sadly.
“I’ll stay behind.” Scarlett walked up to him and placed her lance over her shoulders, staring at Brendel with her amber eyes.
“Let me check your forehead.” He said after a short moment.
He got up with a heavy heart and pushed away the hair which was covering her forehead. A black flower-like pattern had spread across it. He had heard reports about how she had nightmares every night to the point she could not breathe but she had not made any complaints about it.
“You can’t stay behind.” He sighed. “The truth is, I don’t want you to leave too far away from me. Staying here for even one month is too dangerous for you or for these villagers. You know what I mean.”
She gritted her teeth and acknowledged his reply with a soft assent. His words plunged into her heart like daggers as she realized he was right. Once she became fully corrupted, these villagers’ fates will most likely be sealed if she stayed behind.
Amandina stood quietly at one corner without saying anything. She was not fond of the Senia villagers, but she clenched her fist at her inability to protect them.
Brendel tidied his shirt and looked at all of them: “I’m going out for a walk—”
Everyone looked surprised. Their lord was not someone who took random trips. The Nightsong Tiger and Scarlett walked up to him, but his hands were raised up: “The two of you stay behind. I’m taking a walk to clear my mind. The rest of you should take a good rest and prepare for our journey ahead.”
============= Sifrid’s POV =============
There was a tradition amongst the Senia; they believed that the dead will stay amongst the living for some time and bless them for their journeys ahead of them. Thus they built a Longhouse specifically for them and held the most important meetings in it.
This was to allow the souls of the dead to accompany the living to tide over the village’s most perilous junctures.
Now, there was an altercation that broke out in this holy grounds.
“I refuse!” The youth who stopped Brynjar yelled, his spittle flying across the table. “Goddess Nia will never hope to see this happen. It’s a miracle that Sifrid got rescued but we’re going to send her back?! Fuck your cowardly suggestions!”
“If we don’t send her back, every single head of the villagers heads will roll,” A thin man spoke in a low menacing voice: “None of us here want this to happen to Sifrid but we have no choice. Don’t you think we have seen enough deaths? Sifrid’s mother died resisting them for the sake of our lives. This is a sacred oath to let us survive the odds!”
He glared at the young man: “I’ll gladly offer my worthless life if the village requires me to sacrifice it. What we need now is our rational thoughts and not reckless emotions. We survived till this day because of that— Brynjar, Sifrid’s your daughter, tell us of your opinions.”
He turned to the middle-aged man. The latter was folding his arms and said nothing.
“Is there no other choice?” The young man said through clenched teeth: “Are we supposed to hand our own to the enemies just like that?”
“Perhaps we can enter the forest?” Someone said.
“We have no food for the harsh winter.” The Elder shook his head. They had not collected the food from their farms, and hiding the forest now would only mean they would starve and freeze to their deaths.
“Are we supposed to just send her to her death?”
“Your words aren’t right. The baron said he was taking her as a foster daughter right? Didn’t he say that if we bring her over there would be no need for us to hide in the forest and we can become real citizens…..”
A small voice in the crowd pierced through the room.
Everyone fell into complete silence. That was a lie which could not even deceive a child. A local lord will never look to the Senia citizens kindly, even if Sifrid had Elven blood in her. The nobles in Graudin’s land were twisted and immoral.
“Have you no shame? I cannot believe you are even capable of uttering these pathetic words. Why don’t you offer yourself and beg the Baron to fuck your arse?” The young man spat at the man who spoke earlier, the latter flushing red with shame.
“Elder, perhaps we should take up our weapons and fight these bastards off?” Another man said angrily.
The quarrels in the Longhouse became louder and louder and spilled out into the streets. Brendel was listening quietly on a boulder while he looked at the little girl squatting beside him. She was looking at the ants crawling on the ground peacefully, as though she did not hear the quarrels in the Longhouse……
“Sifrid,” The youth finally said: “You understand what our language, don’t you?”
She raised her head up with a surprised look.
“I’m….. Sorry.” She spoke in Brendel’s native tongue with difficulty.
“That’s fine,” Brendel shook his head. “I know that you needed to protect yourself during that time. It seems like you’re a smart little girl. You can call me Brother Brendel—”
The little girl’s smile was endearing. She paused for a moment.
“Brother….. Brendel, can I, take you to the forest, instead of my father? I too, know the forest. My mother, taught me.”
Brendel felt his heart melting, but he shook his head at the end.
“(Sifrid, even if you bring us to the forest and you are not in this village, that baron will still be here?)” This time the youth spoke in the Elven language.
Sifrid was taken aback for a moment and her face quickly fell.
“I’m sorry.” Brendel whispered.
The little girl bit her lips.
Suddenly, he heard crashes within the Longhouse with intensified yells.